Intro to Mark – John Mark was a cousin of Barnabas (Colossians 4:10). He eventually traveled to Egypt and founded the first Christian church in Alexandria in 49 AD and may have started the “Christian ball rolling” in Africa. Coptic tradition claims he was martyred in 68 AD.

I believe that all four Gospel Books were prophesied and mentioned in Ezekiel 1:5,10 and Revelation 4:7. In each case, we are given a glimpse into the spiritual world, which, in our terms, was rich in symbolism in order to convey a message to us that we could understand, but only with the Holy Spirit’s help. Four visions are described: 1) Lion, calf/bull/ox, man, and an eagle. The Lion (king of the beasts) represents Matthew’s Gospel because he emphasizes Jesus as being the King of the Jews. The calf/bull, or ox (workers) represents Mark’s Gospel because he emphasized Jesus as being the lowly servant. The man represents Luke’s Gospel because he portrayed Jesus as the Son of Man from Adam’s lineage. Finally, the eagle (soars high above all else; majestic) represents John’s Gospel because he presented Jesus as the Son of God with a lineage from eternity. These are the spirits that God used to give the Holy Words to these four gospel writers.

v1-3: Prophecy is quoted from the Old Testament that describes the forerunner of the Messiah – John the Baptist. Both Isaiah and Malachi contributed to this revelation, although most Bible translations credit Isaiah only. The King James Version (KJV), however, simply says “the prophets” without naming any one of them. Translators have cleared other versions from error by claiming that it was a proper use of a “metonymy” or figure of speech. So there is no real error here.

v4-7: John the Baptist was radical. He was a distant relative of Jesus. Elizabeth, John’s mother, was Mary’s cousin (according to the KJV, other versions say “relative”). As an adult, he lived in the wilderness, dressed in rough clothing, and ate only the bare essentials. He must have been a sight to behold! He was also doing a lot of proclaiming, so his voice must have been well-suited to do so. He apparently got lots of attention because many people traveled out into that wilderness to hear him preach about the coming of God’s Kingdom. He also knew that he was no match for the person coming after him.

John the Baptist’s Ministry: This John is not to be confused with the Apostle John who wrote the Gospel of John. This John’s purpose was to prepare people’s hearts to receive Christ as their Lord and Savior. How? By repenting. Repenting is not merely feeling sorry for doing wrong. It makes us not want to do those things ever again. It motivates us to turn our backs away from sin and gives us a new desire to do good. Of course this does not give us eternal life, but Jesus does. Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of Christ, felt so sorry for what he had done that he killed himself. I assume there was no repentance in his heart. Peter, on the other hand, denied Jesus 3 times and wept bitterly over it, but later made a nice comeback. I assume that he repented. When a person meets the real Jesus (not the religious one*), the person will most likely repent. This allows Jesus to take over the person’s heart (soul-life) and causes the “born-again” experience that Jesus told Nicodemus, who was a highly respected religious leader, was necessary to experience in order to go to Heaven (John 3:3).

* The religious Jesus = being compelled to obey rituals and rules believing that this behavior will save one’s soul rather than receiving Jesus into the heart as the new Lord (boss) of one’s life. God described people involved with the religious Jesus as this: “They honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me, but in vain they worship Me, teaching as their doctrines the precepts of men” (Matthew 15:8 and Isaiah 29:13).

v8-11: John only baptized with water, but Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit (supernatural power). Jesus gets filled with the Holy Spirit after He came up from the water when John baptized Him. Jesus’ credibility was confirmed by an audible voice from the sky.

Jesus was sinless, therefore the baptism of repentance (water) was not necessary for Him to do and even John hesitated to baptize Him, but Jesus said that He “must fulfill all things.” Maybe that meant He was showing us the example we must follow. Many churches, both Catholic and Protestant perform infant baptisms. This practice, although well-meaning, is no where to be found in the Bible. If infant baptism really removes “original sin” as some believe, then why didn’t the Jews practice it and why wasn’t it demanded by God in Scripture? In the Bible, Jews dedicated their children back to God sometime after they were born. Some Christian churches have parents do this in front of the church. It’s thanking God for creating someone new and giving them the responsibility to raise him/her in the ways of the Lord. The early church during the writing of Book of Acts also did not include infant baptisms. I was “sprinkled” as a baby, but it was obviously not my free will involved but rather my parents’. So when I was “born-again” later in life, I was fully immersed in water by an elder of my church. It was the right thing for me to do. I conclude that infant baptism is a precept or a tradition of men not supported by God’s Word, the Bible. I recommend to anyone who has never been completely immersed in water to be baptized and proclaim publicly your repentance and desire to be a disciple (follower) of Jesus Christ, and to do so as soon as possible. This experience is Scriptural. The infant baptism issue is an example of how religion suppresses truth. Most churches practice infant baptism but it is NOT found in the Bible. Few churches practice full immersion for an older person who can decide for themselves what they want to do, and this IS found in the Bible.

v12-13: Something interesting…there is an old saying that says, “Timing is everything.” Did you ever wonder why the Holy Spirit impelled Jesus into the wilderness at this time? The Holy Spirit knew that Satan would come and tempt Him, but why at this time? I think it was because Jesus just received ability to do supernatural miracles. There is no Biblical record of Jesus doing miracles before His ministry began at age 30 (the water to wine at Cana was his first, the Bible says). Imagine if YOU were given these abilities suddenly. You would be tempted to do the exact same things included in those 3 temptations Satan gave to Jesus. So Jesus had to prepare to fight Satan in a big way. So He fasted, and fasted, and fasted…for 40 days and nights which is the extreme human limit (I assume He drank water). Verse 13 says that angels were “ministering” to Him. I think “ministering” included, among other things, feeding Him because His physical body would be too weak to feed Himself.

Finally, any time we get to see two of the strongest leaders face off in a fight, it gets interesting fast. How would these two old-time adversaries fight? Both Jesus and Satan fought with Scriptures. The Devil quoted the Bible to get Jesus to do something wrong, and Jesus quoted the Bible to thwart the Devil’s schemes. And it worked. Quite amazing. There is a good lesson in there for all of us.

I’ve heard pastors teach that Satan did not know about the resurrection of Jesus. If he had known, they reason, then Satan would not have killed Him. The truth is that Satan knew Scripture better than any human except Jesus. Satan quoted a verse from Psalms 91:11-12 and he perceived it referred to the Messiah. I don’t think one theologian or religious leader would ever perceive this, but Satan did. Therefore, it is easy for me to assume that Satan also knew that Psalms 16:10 was speaking about the Messiah’s resurrection. Satan knows the Word of God and tries to twist it and delete it as much as he can. So why did he move Judas to set it up? I think he saw his only chance in eternity to strike God and he took full advantage. His hate may also be uncontrollable, therefore when God removes from restraining it, Satan cannot stop destroying. Just a thought.

Application for Today: It all comes down to what God has said. The first scheme the devil used against mankind was questioning whether or not God actually said something (Genesis 3:1). Satan and his demons do the same thing today (2 Cor. 2:11). For example, if we have tormenting thoughts about ourselves (self-condemnations), we need to quote God’s Word about who we really are in Christ back at these voices. These voices are spirits that have set themselves against us and all that God does and stands for. If we have overwhelming guilt, start quoting Scriptures that proclaim our forgiveness (and the fact that God remembers our sin no more). This is how we “fight the fight” today. This is what Jesus did in the wilderness when He fought the devil.

v14: It didn’t take the religious leaders long to get John the Baptist taken into custody. They did not like being called sinners. Just like the proud people today.

v15: Jesus’ first message of His ministry = the much prophesied Kingdom of God is at hand, therefore repent and believe in the Gospel. Quite simple actually, and it still works today.

v16-20: Jesus calls the fisherman to be fishers of men. I’ve always marveled at how these men dropped all and followed immediately, including James and John whose father was Zebedee. Jesus later called these two men “Sons of Thunder.” I’ve often wondered if it was because of the commotion Zebedee may have caused when he saw his sons leave him and his business. In those days, I suspect that whatever a father did for a living, the sons took over to keep the business going. Dads depended greatly upon their sons. I can hear poor Zebedee crying out to Jesus, , “Hey! Where do you think you’re going with my boys?!” I suspect his voice sounded a bit like thunder. If this suspicion is true, it would show that Jesus had a sense of humor.

v21-22: Jesus did not quote other religious men when He taught. He stuck to the OT Scriptures and His Father’s words selected for the human race. People noticed this. He certainly was unique to the people of His day. If Jesus came in today’s world, people would marvel that He had no PhD Degree or seminary training and never quoted studies, and yet could say deeply profound things.

v23-27: A demon yelling through a man in a synagogue confronts Jesus by identifying Jesus as “the Holy One of God.” Jesus rebuked the spirit by commanding it to be silent and to come out of the man. Throwing the man into convulsions and crying out loudly, it came out. Demons MUST obey Jesus. They have no options or power over Him. They did not enjoy meeting up with Jesus because they knew who He was and He had authority to throw them into the pit of darkness reserved for judgment, and that was the last thing they wanted, although they knew there was a set time for their torment to begin (Luke 8:28 and 31). Amazing revelation of that unseen world that, if we could see it visibly, we would be quite shaken.

Why did Jesus tell the demons to be quiet? Probably because He did not want His identity to be revealed prematurely (more evident in verse 34). He knew that once the truth about who He was claiming to be reached the Pharisees, His death would begin to be planned too early. He needed time to preach about the Kingdom for about 3 years and to travel to many villages before He left earth (see verse 38 and 45).

40-42: Jesus heals a leper. The neat part here is that the leper, who was a total outcast from his society, came to Jesus humbly falling on his knees asking Him if He was willing to heal him. Jesus, of course, was willing. This shows the mercy, compassion, and concern that God has for all people no matter what society thinks of them. Furthermore, it shows that if we need healing, God is willing to heal us. Some Christians who are sick or have various maladies think that it is their “cross to bear” as if God wants them to be sick or have physical problems. When Jesus said for us to deny ourselves and pick up our cross and follow Him, I do not think He meant by “cross” things like diseases, pain, etc. The “cross” simply represents self-denial and putting God first in all things. I know Paul had a “thorn in his flesh” (a messenger from Satan) and he asked God to remove whatever it was, but God said, “My grace is sufficient for thee.” While this is true, I think that many believers use this verse to explain many problems that they actually could be set free from, but they do not seek God for healing because “it is their cross to bear.” I do not view God as One who sends physical pain onto His kids. Now we may experience pain due to accident, birth defect, or whatever. But these are a result of a sin-cursed world not because God sent it onto someone. Maybe I’ve opened a Pandora’s box on this issue because there is much more to say, especially about the case of Job in the OT. But I will stop and hope that what I’ve said stimulates the right thoughts in all of us. The bottom line is that “Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever more” (Hebrews 13:8). Therefore, He heals today just as much as He healed when He walked the earth.

Mark 2:

v1-12: When a paralytic was lowered down to Jesus through a hole in the roof (the house was too crowded for this man to enter), Jesus first said to him, “My son (or child), your sins are forgiven.” Immediately some Scribes (Jewish religious experts who made careful copies of the OT Scriptures), objected saying, “He is blaspheming, who can forgive sins but God alone?” Jesus, of course knew their religious, cold hearts and basically said “which is easier, to say your sins are forgiven or to heal this man?” In a bold stroke of revelation, Jesus proclaimed that “the son of Man has the authority to forgive sins” (equal to God) and He proved it by healing the man immediately! The result? People glorified God because they had never seen anything like this before. The people never glorified God with this intensity from anything the Scribes or Pharisees had done. I’m sure His claim produced many enemies for Him from the self-righteous, religious group.

v15-17: Jesus was criticized by the Pharisees for eating and hanging out with “sinners.” That’s how the self-righteous will describe people with poor or questionable reputations while failing to see the fact that they too are sinners. Jesus’ response was classic: “Only people who are sick need a doctor.” Translation = only people who admit their desperate need because of sin in their life will receive the medicine (salvation) they need. Jesus did not come to earth for the self-righteous, but for His lost sheep.

v18-20: John the Baptist’s disciples and the Pharisees were fault-finding again. They complained that they fast but Jesus’ disciples did not. But Jesus said when they have the “Bridegroom” with them, there is no need to fast, but when He is taken away, they will fast. This was the first mention in the NT of the concept that God, the Father, was working on a plan to present a perfect Bride for His Son. The Bride of Christ is the True Church. It is not a building or something man-made. The true Church is the universal church, comprised of all the true believers who were born-again in Christ sometime during their lives on earth. The universal church, or Bride of Christ, is not Protestant or Catholic. It is people from all Christian churches throughout the ages, and many OT folks as well – those who believed God’s promises and His Word. All people who attend church or who formally belong to a church, however, are not “The Bride of Christ.” Unfortunately, there are many phony Christians among the real ones (remember the “wheat and tare” parable).

v21-22: Jesus describes the New Covenant that He is ushering in by using a wineskin analogy. In those days, animal skins were used to contain wine but the same skins could not contain new wine because they couldn’t stretch anymore and the new wine would burst open the old skins. They had to use new skins for new wine. What He was really saying is that people had to stop trying to be good enough for Heaven and receive God’s mercy to get in. The old perceived system was not working, nor was it really intended to be the answer. God knew what He was doing and why and when he did it. Unfortunately, some would think that “the old way” was good enough. This is the same spirit in religious people today who are not born-again in Christ. They are content with just being religious by following old ways and rituals while their hearts are far from God.

v23-28: Again Jesus is criticized for eating grain on the Sabbath. This was considered to be work by the Jewish man-made rules and therefore sinful on the Day of Rest. But Jesus reveals God’s original intent for giving the Sabbath. It was for man’s benefit because man needs to rest and recover from 6 days of work. It’s the way God made things and man needed to respect that and honor God more than making a buck. The Jews had added many legalistic rules to this commandment. I knew of an orthodox Jew who separated sections of toilet paper the day before the Sabbath so he wouldn’t do “work” when nature calls on the Sabbath. These people have lost the true significance of what God had said. Jesus corrected their error by simply saying, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” Then He gave the “grand finale” conclusion: “Consequently, the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” This is a huge claim. I think what He meant (and I could be wrong here) was that because He is God, He dictates what He meant by what He has revealed or what He has spoken, even from centuries past. It is His creation and His rules, not ours. This is difficult to claim for two reasons: 1) It is extremely difficult to convince people in front of you that you are the Creator, and 2) He had to remain humble yet still tell the truth about how great He is. That’s a pretty skinny tightrope to walk on, but He did it flawlessly, of course.

Mark 3 – Jesus Distances Himself from His Earthly Family

v1-6: Jesus gets angry and grieves in His heart because people are putting their religious beliefs over a personal love relationship with God. He healed a man’s withered hand on the Sabbath, and all the Pharisees could do was to start plotting His destruction because Jesus broke their rules. Even a heathen might be at least happy for the man who was healed. But not the religiously proud.

v12: Again Jesus does not want His true identity known yet, maybe so His enemies would not cause more trouble (?). The Bible  doesn’t say.

v20-21: Multitudes of people were coming to and surrounding Jesus so He couldn’t even eat one meal. His disciples thought He was “losing it” so they tried to take custody of Him.

22-27: Jesus’ enemies could not discount His miracles of casting out demons and making people well, so they claimed it was Satan’s power doing it through Him. Jesus responded by saying, “How can Satan cast out Satan? And if a kingdom is divided against itself it cannot stand.” Then this is where Jesus says that big quote that many people think Abe Lincoln came up with, “And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.” There are several popular sayings that come from the Bible, and many people don’t realize it because they never read it. Jesus also points out that if someone is going to successfully plunder a house, first the strong man of that house must be bound. What He meant is that He, the Son of God, has the authority and the power to bind up Satan enabling Him to plunder (cast out his demons) from Satan’s house (this world).

Deeper thought – I wonder if this actually meant that Jesus had bound Satan by this time or that He just meant that we need to do this before casting demons out of people. Some people believe He meant that He had bound Satan then and when He ascended to the throne in heaven, it marked the beginning of the millennium, and that the millennium is not a literal 1,000 year period but rather a significant amount of time when Christ will rule from the heavenly throne through His people on earth. If true, then the millennium is actually a description of the Church Age. This would also mean that most of the Book of Revelation chronicles this time period rather than events that have not yet taken place. Most Christians do not believe this because the only perspective they’ve been exposed to is the dispensational viewpoint, which I believe, is not correct. The more I studied church history, the more I came to doubt John Darby’s dispensational perspective which now dominates American Christian thinking. Neither perspective determines one’s salvation, so the issue should be fairly explored by all churches so that people can make an informed choice as to what they believe. Sadly, this is not happening, however.

v28-30: THE ONLY UNFORGIVABLE SIN = BLASPHEMY AGAINST THE HOLY SPIRIT. But what does this really involve? The context is that Pharisees were claiming that the power of the Holy Spirit was from Satan. Can a true Christian commit this kind of sin? I don’t think so. These people were always looking for ways to find fault with Jesus. They did not like Him. They wanted Him to shut up and go away forever. A true Christian never comes from this mind set. I think that only a very proud and evil-hearted person who goes out of their way to put down God’s truth would commit such a sin as this. Some Christians do not believe that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit described in the book of Acts is for today. Though I disagree with their interpretation of Scripture, I do not believe that they are even close to being guilty of the sin of blaspheming the Holy Spirit. Some of these Christians even go so far as to say that all speaking in tongues, which is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, is of the devil. Again, though I disagree with this belief, I do not believe that it is equal to the above atrocity that emanates from a totally evil-hearted, anti-God person. The people who blaspheme the Holy Spirit will never repent of anything. It is not in them. God does not grant it to them although He does grant this to others (2 Timothy 2:25 & Romans 2:4). To me, a person who does this sin, is simply revealing to others what is already true about their souls which is reprobate, unchangeable. Like the evil heart of the Egyptian Pharaoh who went after Moses and the Jews. It was evil from the get-go and would not improve, so God allowed it to manifest more and more by hardening it. In this way, great resistance against God’s people went forth only to be totally dismantled by God Himself so that people throughout the whole earth would know who the One True God is. The plan worked. People today have heard about it.

v31-35: Jesus distances Himself from members of His earthly family when His mother and brothers came for Him. When told they were waiting outside of the house He was in, Jesus said, “Who are My mother and My brothers?”  when He looked at those sitting around listening to Him, He said, “Behold, My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother.” So what did Jesus really mean by this? It’s open for interpretation. I do not believe He was putting down His family members, but rather letting people know that these people do not dictate what He does or says about the Kingdom of God, and that they should not be the center of any attention. After all, He is the “Bridegroom.” If He did not make this distinction, I imagine several people would take these family members aside to gain inside information about what Jesus means when He says things about God. Worse yet, deify them. He alone is God. His family members were not perfect people as He is. At one point His brothers were not believing in Him and were upset with Him because He was not planning on going to Jerusalem for the “Feast of Booths” (an important Jewish Day). Since there were going to be many people there, they wanted Him to go and speak plainly to them about who He was claiming to be. This had to grieve His heart. Joseph is never mentioned again in Scripture after Jesus’ 12-year-old Temple scene so theologians believe he had died early in life. If not, I would assume he would have been with Mary at the foot of the cross.

Mary, who has been honored more than any lady in all of history, proclaimed Jesus as her Savior thus recognizing her need as a sinner (Luke 1:47). Sinless folks do not need saving, they have no Savior. So why would God choose her to give birth to Himself? I believe that He knew she would treasure in her heart all those great things that the angel spoke about her son (Luke 2:19). In other words, she was so humble that she wouldn’t brag about her son or herself. This would be rare for a parent. Bottom line: It is safe to assume that Jesus loved and respected His mother and brothers and His sisters (Matthew 13:55-56), but He had to distance Himself from them when His ministry began for reasons stated above.

I know that some of the above statements directly contradict teachings from the Roman Catholic Church. This is not my main purpose of these commentaries. My conviction, however, is to use only the Bible to establish Truth, not the traditions of men whether they be Catholic or Protestant. If I am right or wrong on any issue, it will be God’s Word alone that settles the matter, not human opinion. I am open-minded to consider any viewpoint from the Scriptures alone. No human on earth has authority to contradict the Bible.

Mark 4:

Why did Jesus speak in parables? A parable is a fictional story that contains truth or a moral theme. It is a method to help others understand something that they may not be perceiving or are blind to. Jesus used them for a couple of reasons. First, it was prophesied in the OT (Psalms 78:2 and Ezekiel 17:2). Second, it was prophesied that certain people alive at that time would have closed hearts to God’s truth, and that the parable method was used to separate those who would understand the spirit of God and those who would not. Even His disciples, however, did not understand the parables at first. Jesus did open up the truth to them by explaining the parables. So at least initially, Jesus had to explain the spiritual truth behind His parables, but only to a select few, for whatever reason, beyond what I’ve mentioned here. Matthew and Mark, of course, gave the meanings to all who would later read their Gospels.

v3-8: Parable of the Sower – Jesus places all people in four categories, depending how they respond to God’s truth. We, as the sharers of the Good News of Jesus Christ, have no way of knowing which of the four types we are talking to. Do not judge outwardly. Some of the most disheveled, angry, rebellious folks have eventually bowed their knees to the Savior. We certainly can utilize spiritual fish-finding technology (prayer) trusting that the Spirit leads us to the “fourth category” person, but we cannot be sure that they are by what they do or say. So do what persistent fishermen do? They keep casting into the water hoping that a good fish is in that area. Bear in mind that God’s Word has power, and when it is sown toward people’s hearts from His mouth (Spirit) through us, it will have some effect. It is active and more powerful that a two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12).

Here is a quick summary of the 4 categories (only one gets saved); the seed represents God’s Word:

#1 Hard heart; hears and rejects immediately (Satan steals away His Word).
#2 No good depth in their personality; initially receives His Word, but affliction or persecution makes them fall away.
#3 Worldly-minded; initially receives His Word; but worries of this life, deceitfulness of riches, and desires for other things choke out Truth and they become unfruitful (do nothing for God).
#4 The Winner! Soft heart (good soil) toward the Truth (God); accepts His Word and shares with others making more believers out of non-believers. These are all the “keeper bass.” 🙂

v21: We are the light, and light is for shining on others. Jesus wants us all to tell others about Him and why He is the way to eternal life. Today, most Americans are unchurched and are ignorant of what the Bible says.

v25: Jesus isn’t talking about worldly stuff. Those who have wisdom into spiritual things receive that wisdom because they ask for it (Matthew 7:7–8). When we continually fill up our hearts with the Kingdom’s spiritual stuff, it multiplies. If we only accept a little truth about Jesus, it does not produce much and may even amount to no reward. The more we do God’s will, the more ability and opportunities He will give us. The less we do, the fewer opportunities and less ability to hear God and do what He wants. And the worst one is doing practically nothing, so no eternal reward is given.

v26-29: Much of the growth we produce via God’s Spirit is not going to be visible to us in this life, especially to other people. But all will be revealed when we die (“the harvest”).

v30-32: Parable of the Mustard Seed – He shows how the eternal Kingdom starts – very tiny and grows into something very big. He is like the mustard seed (just one man) and through Him all saved people (birds of the air) will make their abode with Him forever. And it will be HUGE!

Controversy: Did Jesus make an error here because a mustard seed is not the smallest of all seeds? Jesus used metaphors in His parables therefore not everything said is literal. He said the Kingdom of God is LIKE a mustard seed. It is not literally a seed. The mustard seed, although not the smallest of ALL seeds, may have been the smallest that Palestinian farmers used. But the main point is that His Kingdom starts small and eventually becomes huge.

v33-34: It seems like some people other than His disciples may have understood some of His many parables, but Jesus made sure that His disciples understood them so they could pass them on to many others.

v36-41: Jesus and the disciples are in a boat when a fierce storm arises and they are on the verge of capsizing. Surprisingly, Jesus is fast asleep (He must have been exhausted to sleep through that). But He awoke and calmed the storm with three words and held the disciples in awe. We can more easily understand why these men gave up all to follow Jesus and why, save John, were willing to meet with early deaths for His sake. I’m sure John was willing, but he was called to a later death by God (John 21:21-23), perhaps because Jesus was going to have John record the Book of Revelation at a proper time. Most scholars believe it was written about 90 AD while some think early as pre-70 AD.

Mark 5:

v1-17: Jesus vs “Legion” – These verses create more questions than answers for me. Jesus steps out of a boat and this crazy man comes running toward Him, and when he reaches Him, he stops and bows down to Him. Then Jesus orders the evil spirit out of the man. So Jesus already knew what was at work inside this guy. As soon as Jesus makes this command, the demons cry out loudly through this guy, “What do I have to do with You, Jesus Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God, do not torment me.” This confrontation did not take long to come about. I don’t even think that Jesus was looking for it, but it came to Him. Notice that even though Jesus was a stranger to the man, what was in him knew exactly who Jesus was. The man must have wondered why those words were coming out of his mouth! Why did Jesus even ask what the demon’s name was? Didn’t He know? It doesn’t say. Jesus quickly learns that there are multitudes of demons in the man (although only one seemed to be talking, maybe the leader – demons probably have authority/power ranks). Why Legion (the identified group of demons) did not want to be sent out of the country I do not know. Perhaps they worried they would be sent to a place where they could not find rest (Matthew 12:43). If so, I wonder if the only place they feel rest is in human souls??

Why did Legion choose the herd of pigs to go into? We can only speculate. Perhaps they thought that Jesus would never allow them to enter humans, so they picked the next best thing. Why would pigs be the next best thing? We can only speculate. Perhaps they thought it was better than a place of torment, but what they would experience in pigs I have no idea (rest? but why?). What happened to the demons after the 2,000 pigs died? Perhaps they began wandering looking for a new “home.” One thing for sure is that one human can live with such demonic power inside, that if in animals, they drive them crazy with fear. Scary concept. We learn only a small portion of that spirit realm with angels and demons at war. Since the Bible does not give us details that we might want to know, it may indicate that He does not want us to know too much. Maybe we would cause more damage or get too prideful. Or maybe it would be too frightening for us to want to be involved. Again, one can only speculate.

The OT is practically silent about Satan and his domain and influence, yet in Jesus’ day, the Jews did had “exorcists” (Matthew 12:27 and Acts 19:13). So there was some revelation, but very limited. Jesus’ multiple confrontations with demons in people had to be a real eye-opener for the people of that day. It was so unusual that the town folk in this story were so afraid that they told Jesus to leave, which He did. They also may have been pig farmers realizing the economic loss they just incurred. Maybe Jesus allowed pigs to be affected because they were unclean animals of OT times (and the Jews should not have been raising them??).

In the OT, David’s anointed harp playing temporarily got rid of evil spirits in King Saul (1 Samuel 16:23). There is also one tiny but great look into the angelic war realm in Daniel 10:12-14. Isaiah,14:12-19 gives a description of Satan before and after his fall, but there is not too much more about this topic in the entire OT. I’ve always wondered why, especially considering the power and damage the demonic realm causes humanity. Maybe part of the reason was to draw more attention to God when He became a man. Or, maybe many more demons were cast down to earth after Jesus came into this world??

There were outward signs of this man’s possession: 1) separated from society (lived among the tombs), 2) cried out loudly (tormented), 3) super physical strength (could break shackles), and 4) he gouged himself with stones. Some of these signs remind me of some people today. The loneliness felt by troubled people increases feelings of isolation. Suicidal people are tormented. The drug called PCP (actually an animal tranquilizer) can make men so strong that they can break off handcuffs from behind their backs. I’ve often thought there is a strong connection with drug abuse and the demonic world. People can do insane things while under the spell of intoxicating drugs. One rule of thumb is to never fight with a drunk man because he will not feel the pain you inflict on him and he’ll keep fighting.  Also, a problem among some teens is self-mutilation. Self-loathing and other factors contribute to this horribly sad state of mind. I’ll never forget a troubled student I had my first year teaching public high school in 1971-1972. He was a short, blond, slight-of-build sophomore who had come to me after school for help. As I talked with him, he began to gouge himself with a Bic pen to the point of causing bleeding. I was only about one year old in the Lord and did not know much about these things. I do not remember seeing much of him after that day. I’ve always wondered what happened to him. He needed Jesus and deliverance from some spirit.

v18-20: The man who was now sane wanted to travel with Jesus, but Jesus wanted him to stay and spread the word to his village. Jesus knows how every person fits in His Kingdom.

v22-42: More Supernatural Action – Jesus raises a 12-year-old girl from the dead and a woman with a chronic bleeding problem gets instantly healed. Scripture reveals that Jesus actually felt power leave His body when the woman was healed. She touched Him while He was in the midst of a crowd so He did not see her come to Him. He knew someone acting in faith had touched Him for healing. We do not know, however, that every time He healed He could feel this. Christians who lay their hands on people for healing have said that sometimes they feel the power go out, while at other times they feel nothing. To make things more confusing, there have been too many phony faith-healers, many of whom have been exposed over the years. I think this is an area where the devil works overtime to keep people confused and doubting.

v43: Jesus warns those present not to tell anyone about the girl coming to life by His hand. Why? Probably due to His concern about becoming too famous too fast so that crowds would prevent Him from traveling to other regions to preach the news about God’s Kingdom. Also, His death needed to be timed perfectly, not too soon and not too late. For example, it had to occur during the Jewish Passover time so that He could be seen as the “Passover Sacrificial Lamb” who died once and for all (Hebrews 7:27 and 9:27-28; Romans 6:10).

Mark 6:

v1-6: Jesus is met with unbelief when He came into His home area. The people marveled at His works of power and wisdom, but because they knew His mom and dad, and brothers and sisters, and they couldn’t believe that He was that special. Maybe it was kind of like today when a childhood friend later becomes famous, but to you he/she will always be just regular person.

v7-13: Jesus summoned the Twelve and sent them to villages to preach repentance. They were not to bring extra supplies, even extra clothing. I think Jesus wanted to demonstrate how God meets all of our needs when we are doing His will. It’s a lesson we all need to learn and experience. They healed people and cast out demons.

v14-28: The execution of John the Baptist – King Herod kept hearing much about Jesus and His miracles. It made him fear that John the Baptist, whom he had executed, had come back to life. This was probably due to a very guilty conscience in Herod. He had John arrested because John preached against his illegal and immoral marriage to Herod’s brother’s wife. People just cannot stand being told they are wrong. Herod, however, enjoyed listening to him preach from jail despite being perplexed by his words. But that new wife held a big grudge, and when her daughter pleased the King with a dance at a party, Herod promised in front of all his guests to give her anything she wanted. Her mom told her to say, “The head of John the Baptist.” Herod was caught in a quandary. On one hand he did not want to harm John, but on the other hand, he could not be embarrassed in front of all his friends.

v31-44: Jesus feeds 5,000 men with only 5 loaves of bread and two fish – Critics and skeptics have attempted to explain away this miracle by claiming that the men had hidden food and Jesus’ teaching about sharing and giving motivated them to share. I don’t think so. A short while later, Jesus is seen walking on water, a more difficult miracle to explain away. If He walked on water, feeding 5,000 from a bit of food is not such a big deal in comparison. The few skeptics that have actually read the Scriptures all the way through, must come up with some fancy, and sometimes comical, weaving to suggest a different story from what the Bible says.

v45-52: Jesus walks on water – Before leaving to another shore, He sent the disciples out in a boat while He returned on land to pray alone. Later, a storm was severely impeding the disciples ship, so Jesus walks out to them on top of the water! What are skeptics going to say here? That He knew where the submerged rocks were? 🙂 They may say that the disciples exaggerated the works of their “dead hero,” but why would they all, except John, die for what they knew to be a lie? People just don’t do that. When Jesus gets into the boat, the storm ceases. They were all astonished because “they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their heart was hardened.” I think the point here is if they accepted who Jesus really was, especially after seeing one big miracle such as the loaves, nothing should astonish them. I do not know why their hearts were hardened. Again, maybe to spare premature fame for Jesus. Later, after they were filled with the Holy Spirit, the disciples could put everything together in a concise manner to convince many others about who Jesus is.

v56: As many sick and disabled people came to and touched Jesus, they were all healed. Although Jesus did not heal everyone who needed healing, He never turned away anyone who came to Him.

Mark 7:

v1-9: The traditions of men conflict with what God says. For example, the religious leaders would sprinkle themselves with water before they ate (we’re not talking about scrubbing with soap and water here). When Jesus’ disciples did not do this, those leaders got angry. But Jesus pointed out the Scripture to them regarding honoring God with lip service while having hearts far from Him, and that this kind of worship, or I dare say, lifestyle, was in vain (worthless). The OT prophet Isaiah prophesied this and Jesus quoted it.

Application for Today: We must be careful not to be led astray by teachings and traditions that man has made up over the years. Only the Holy Scriptures are True and must always be used as the yardstick to determine truth. Many churches regard their man-made traditions equal with Scripture and they are in error because of this.

v10-13: The Jews had a tradition called “Corban.” It was a means of dedicating things to God. The Pharisees would do this with some of their money, while, at the same time, their parents were in need. Because their money was “Corban,” they did not use it to help their own mom and dad, thus invalidating the Scripture that says to honor them. Jesus said that there were many other examples of wrong traditions.

v15: “There is nothing outside the man which going into him can defile him; but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man.” This is not about germs. This is about spiritual defilement – becoming unholy unto God. We should still wash our hands before eating. When the Jews sprinkled themselves with water before they ate food, no germs died, yet they thought they were pure in spirit afterward.

v19: Jesus explains further about defilement. Food goes through our physical bodies and then is eliminated via the intestinal tract. In other words, it goes in and then out. It therefore cannot defile spiritually. He thus pronounced that all foods are clean.

v20-23: What does defile us? What we say with our mouths because whatever is in our hearts first will eventually spew out of our mouths. This is one reason why “four-letter words” are wrong. When I taught teens, some agreed with George Carlin’s erroneous position that words are just words and none are wrong to say. This raises a good question, what really makes the “F-word” wrong? I’ve always maintained that sexual intercourse between two humans in love with each other and married is a very special moment. God joins us in a holy soul-tie to one another through this act. With humans, sex is more than a mere physical act. It is NOT the same with animals because there is no love or soul-tying happening. By reducing the human sex experience down to a word that is often used in anger, rebellion, selfish exploitation, or debasement to an animal level, it becomes quite bad (foul, perverted), certainly not neutral as Mr. Carlin asserted. Other words are wrong because of gross connotations they carry. Every language has them. If they spew out of our mouths, then what is in our heart? Ouch.

v25-30: A non-Jew asks Jesus to cast a demon out of her daughter. Jesus wants to deal with the Jews first, but since her faith, persistence, and humility were great, Jesus cast the demon out of the child without even going to the place where she was!

v31-37: Because of increasing fame, Jesus is getting too busy, especially with all the demands for healing and deliverance from demons. So when a man with severe physical disabilities was brought to Him, He sighed, but still healed and delivered him. This man was deaf and spoke with difficulty. Why Jesus put His fingers in the man’s ears then spit on the ground making a blob of muddy spittle and applying that to the man’s tongue, I’ll never quite understand. On other occasions, He just spoke a word without touching people and they were healed or delivered. Maybe He is revealing that there are no formulas to trust in when it comes to healing and casting out demons.

Here is an interesting comment sent in by my friend Kelly Mahan: “About the different ways Jesus performed similar miracles – I’ve wondered if perhaps it had to do with the faith level of the person to be healed. I think He worked with where they were at–if they had the level of faith of the centurion, He didn’t have to do anything physical; but some perhaps needed the physical touch, and some may not have been able to believe without “medicine” (some external thing) being applied. Just a thought…”

Mark 8:

v1-9: Four thousand men were fed with only 7 loaves of bread and a few fish. This act demonstrated His authority and compassion for people.

v11-12: The Pharisees demand a sign from Jesus. Jesus would not give one on demand because their hearts were hard and evil. In other words, no sign would convince them. They would just keep attacking Him all the more…and then there is always Proverbs 26:4.

v15-21: After leaving the Pharisees behind, Jesus warned His disciples to be aware of the “leaven of the Pharisees and of Herod.” They missed His point entirely, thinking that they needed more food as their supply was low. Jesus shows His frustration with their hard hearts, which apparently, was the reason they could not get His message. He reminded them of the miracles of food multiplications and asked why then do they worry about having enough bread. What Jesus meant by “leaven” was the “teaching of the Pharisees” (Matthew 16:12) and the “worldly ways of Herod” (just guessing on this one). Possibly the “influence” of man-made religious teaching as well.

v22-26: When in the town of Bethsaida, a blind man was brought to Jesus. But He first brought the man out of the village, then spit in his eyes resulting in only a partial healing. Then after laying His hands on the man’s eyes, the man could see perfectly. I can’t explain why Jesus spit in this man’s eyes, but I think I know why He took him out of the village. It ties in with Jesus directing the healed man not to go back to the village but to go straight home. To me, this shows that Jesus had other priorities, not just healing and delivering folks from demons. The Word about God’s Kingdom was paramount, and He had limited time. He also knew that if people got delivered but not saved, not only would their soul be lost for eternity, but their earthly lives would become 7 times worse off than before they were set free (Matthew 12:43-45). This is why Jesus did not simply walk around to find all the sick, diseased, disabled, and possessed people. He would have no time for the more important part of His mission. In addition, He always took His directions from the Father in Heaven while He walked on earth (John 4:34 and John 8:29).

v27-30: The true identity of Jesus is first uttered by a human being and Jesus told His disciples to tell no one. The following verses may give us a hint to why Jesus said this. His execution had to be timed perfectly to the day and year. If His enemies knew He was claiming to be the Messiah, they would have to act faster with His killing. (my speculation).

v31-33: Then Jesus reveals only to His disciples that He (the Son of man, or Messiah) must be delivered over to the elders, chief priests, and scribes, then suffer greatly and be killed, but rise again on the third day. Upon hearing this shocking news, Peter took Jesus aside and rebuked Him (hard to imagine a follower of Jesus rebuking Him, but I think it was more along the lines of Peter trying to convince Jesus to not let it happen). Then Jesus turned around and noticed the rest of the disciples (who probably heard what Peter just had said). So in front of them all, Jesus rebuked Peter and told Satan to get behind Him. Poor Peter, he had no idea that the devil was speaking through him. Can you imagine how he felt? Anyway, Jesus said that the devil was looking at things not from God’s perspective but from man’s perspective. God’s thoughts are higher than man’s thoughts, and His ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8). People of Jesus’ day were not prepared to understand the concept of God Himself dying for their sins as a sacrificial lamb. They most likely thought that the Messiah would be a worldly conqueror who would get the Romans off their backs.

v34-37: Jesus emphasizes what must happen within us in order to be His disciple (saved). We must “take up our cross and follow Him.” This means to put Jesus first in our hearts above self (Colossians 1:18). If “self” rules, we cannot serve Him. Jesus says if we give up our life to Him, we will save it (have eternal life), but if we save (cling to self and be our own boss) our life, we shall lose it (no eternal life with Him). In verse 36, Jesus puts all into perspective by saying, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?” So many people live for fame, power, various worldly ambitions, money, and pleasure, but all, even if obtained in this life, will be gone forever in a flash at death.

v38: Sobering words from Jesus – if we are ashamed of Him in our life here on earth, then He also will be ashamed of us in front of His Father in heaven and all the angels. Ouch!

Mark 9:

v1: Here are some interpretations of what this verse is talking about – 1) the Transfiguration, 2) the resurrection, 3) Pentecost that got the spread of Christianity going fast, 4) the 70 A.D. destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple.

Note: The context indicates that Jesus was addressing only His 12 disciples, not additional ones that were sometimes around.  So for the above #1 – that would include only Peter, James, and John. #2 – all but Judas, #3 – all but Judas, and #4 – John for sure, but not sure of anyone else. To be honest, I have not studied this issue in depth, so I’m sure some theologians would have more to say, correct, or rebut what I’ve said here. From what I have read, it can get complicated.

2-10: The Transfiguration of Jesus – Jesus became radiant and Elijah and Moses are suddenly with Him. Moses represents The Law, Elijah represents the Prophets, and Jesus is the fulfillment of both.

During this miraculous experience, the audible voice strikes again and affirms who Jesus is. And once again Jesus tells the disciples who saw all this to say nothing about it until after He rises from the dead causing them to think only of what “rising from the dead” meant.

One interesting note is that the disciples were NOT expecting Jesus to literally come to life after He was crucified. They probably thought His words on this were another hard-to-understand parable…I mean NOBODY ever literally rises from the dead! Therefore, the only thing that would convince them is to see Him again, which, of course, they did. Furthermore, the resurrection account was not a lie made up later by the disciples who idolized their dead hero. History indicates that Christianity spread immediately because the disciples were preaching about the resurrection.

v11-13: The disciples asked Jesus about a Messianic prophecy from the OT Book of Malachi 4:5. It spoke of Elijah coming before the Day of the Lord. So they were wondering if Elijah had come back again. Jesus interpreted that prophecy as being fulfilled by John the Baptist (Matthew 11:11-14) who did need to appear before the Messiah to “pave the way to the Lord” (repentance). Again, we need to be careful when interpreting Bible prophecy. There is usually much symbolism involved. In this case, John the Baptist perhaps had a similar spirit to Elijah’s within him that fulfilled this prophecy. It, according to Jesus, was not a literal prophecy.

v17-27: A demon-possessed boy could not be delivered by the disciples and, again, Jesus is frustrated at their unbelief. As soon as the boy came into the presence of Jesus, the symptoms instantly manifested – convulsions, foaming at the mouth, falling to the ground and rolling around. Jesus asked the boy’s father how long had this been going on and it was from childhood. The dad said to Jesus, “If You can do something please do it.” Jesus gets a little irked again and responds, “If I can?! All things are possible to him who believes.” Then the dad cries out something that we all can relate to, he says, “I do believe; help me in my unbelief.” Herein lies that old battle within our thought-life: believe-doubt; doubt-believe etc. Then Jesus cast out the demon and the boy was fine.

v28-29: In a private meeting, Jesus told His disciples as they were asking Him why the exorcism did not work for them, “This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer and fasting.” Jesus gives us yet another small glimpse into the spiritual world we cannot see. There are some demons apparently stronger than other demons, and if we pray and fast, we’ll have more power against those stronger forces.

v33-37: After all the teaching that the disciples heard, they start arguing among themselves as to who will be greater in Heaven. I can’t imagine what feelings Jesus must have had with this one. But He simply used it as a teachable moment by declaring that to be first (or the greatest) one must be a servant. The more we promote ourselves, the more God will demote us. The more humble we become, the more God will raise us up. And forget about being humble in order to become great – God sees right though that one.

v41: A great reward will be given to those who help Christians because they are Christians.

v42: A stern warning to those who would cause young people to reject God’s truth. Watch out clergy, parents, teachers, and college professors!

v43-47: Do not cut off your hand or your foot or gouge out your eyes based on these verses. If we took this literally, we would all be severely disabled. This figurative language stressed the point that whatever stood in the way of faithfulness to God should be discarded. I also think Jesus meant for us to cut off the source of your weakness. For example, if alcohol is trouble for you, do not go to bars or hide a secret supply. If sexual lust is a problem, then do not look at pornography. If gluttony is a problem, then do not stockpile junk food in the refrigerator. Whatever the proper interpretation is, all can agree that Jesus is stating how great eternal life is and how horrible hell is.

Mark 10 – That Eye of the Needle?

v1-12: Pharisees test Jesus – Moses allowed “easy divorce” by a simple letter of dismissal. The Pharisees knew that Jesus would say divorce is wrong, so they thought they had Him trapped because no one dared to contradict Moses and his writings (Scripture). But Jesus revealed that Moses wrote that because the people’s hearts were so hardened that God’s intent of the Law was being disregarded. Jesus still emphasized that it was still adultery, however. This is because God makes two people one flesh via marriage and no man is allowed to separate what God has joined together. Reasons for permissible divorce are found in 1 Corinthians Chapter 7.

Note on v6: Jesus said, “But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female.” He was quoting Genesis 1:27 and 5:2. Two very important observations from this quote: 1) Jesus treated the Genesis account as literal history. Adam and Eve were literally the first two human beings, not some allegorical tale as some Christians have claimed, and 2) for Christians who believe that God used evolution, it states clearly that from the beginning of creation there were two fully developed humans on the scene – no room for billions of years of “goo-to-you” macro-evolution. Now adaptation within species has occurred and still does, but not Darwinian Evolution. Critical thinkers can also wonder how male and female sexes developed slowly over millions of years if it takes “two to tango” with all the right sexual parts working properly, not slowly developing. They can’t function properly if in some stage of development. This is the central theme of Michael Behe, professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University, in his book, “Darwin’s Black Box.” He is an outstanding molecular biologist and attacks evolution on that sophisticated level.

v13-16: Another teachable moment for Jesus – His disciples were dissing little kids but Jesus said unless we become like little children (humble and trusting higher authorities) we cannot enter heaven.

v17-27: A man addresses Jesus as “Good Teacher” and then asks Him what he needs to do to get into heaven. The first thing Jesus deals with is the man’s usage of the word “good” and says that only God is good. I think Jesus was trying to let the man realize what he was really saying and to give people a gentle hint about whom He really was. Then Jesus lists a bunch of commandments to obey, but seemingly purposefully leaves out idolatry which was this man’s weakness for he owned much property and was rich. When the man claimed to have obeyed the commandments that Jesus listed, Jesus then tells him to sell everything, follow Him, and store his treasures in heaven. At this, the man went away sad because he refused to give up his idol (anything in our lives that is more important than God). Jesus really loved this guy and was very sad when he walked away. It is difficult for wealthy people to get saved Jesus said. This astounded His disciples because it was perceived in those days that if one was rich, it meant God was blessing them. So they concluded that if rich people could not be saved than no one could. But Jesus then said, “With God all things are possible.”

Note on V25: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Some have said that in Jesus’ day, the eye of the needle was an opening through the city walls made only for people to enter after hours, so it was small. Apparently, its size prevented an invading army to enter quickly. Camels, therefore, had to kneel and unload all their baggage in order to go through. Kneeling and crawling is difficult for a camel but not impossible. Rich people often do not see their need for God and therefore are rarely saved. The problem with this needle explanation is that there seems to be little or no foundation for it. Jesus used the Aramaic word “gamla” which can also be translated “rope.” Rope in those days was often made from camel’s hair. But the meaning of “gamla” depends on its context. If used with “riding” or “burden” it always means camel. If with “eye of the needle” it means rope. So the “eye of the needle” most likely meant a literal end of a sewing needle, and, it would then be impossible for a rope to go through. Would this then mean that rich people will not be saved? I don’t think so. Over the years wealthy people have been saved and Christ-confessing. Perhaps it is safer to say, that it is very unusual for rich people to be saved, but a few do.

v28-31: Peter wondered what kind of reward awaited the disciples for giving up so much of their earthly things (family, homes, etc) and Jesus said that while on earth, they will receive back these types of things (along with persecutions though) but at the end, they will have eternal life. But through all of life, those who are important in this world’s eyes will not be important in the afterlife, and people who are not esteemed by this world will have more honor in Heaven. So there will be a lot of surprises on Judgment Day. God does not judge as this world judges.

v32-34: Jesus gives more detail about His future crucifixion to the Twelve.

v35-40: This critical and sad time for Jesus must have gone far over the disciples heads once again because James and John (with their mom)  came up to Jesus and asked Him if they could sit on the right and left of Him next to His throne in Heaven! Where’s the humility? Where’s the concern for Jesus here? I am beside myself with their attitudes at this juncture. Instead of scolding these two guys, Jesus simply says that they have no idea what they are asking. They would have to be willing to go through something similar to what He was about to experience. Bottom line? Those special positions in heaven were not for Jesus to give, but for those whom it was prepared (the Father’s predestination for the select few?).

v41: The rest of the disciples got ticked off at James and John for “pushing themselves forward” with Jesus. I kind of get the feeling that as Jesus is nearing His execution and earthly departure, that His efforts to teach these guys is unraveling as He speaks. But, amazingly, He doesn’t seem to be pushing the panic button. He must have realized that the Holy Spirit would do a great job teaching the church once He came down to earth.

v42-45: Instead of rebuking them, Jesus uses yet another teachable moment and points out that if you want to be great in God’s Kingdom, you must be a servant of others on earth and do not aspire to be a “big shot” where others serve you. He uses His own ministry as an example of servanthood, even to the point of dying for others. When Jesus was teaching on earth, it was just the beginning of His Bride’s development. You might say She was just born at that time in history. Over the years, however, She would grow and grow and do many great exploits for Jesus. When He comes back, She is definitely going to be quite different than the original Twelve. He must have had this insight when on earth which gave Him the patience with his Twelve.

v46-52: A blind man named Bartimaeus calls out loudly to Jesus as He and His disciples were walking down a road leaving Jericho. Instead of welcoming his plea for help, many there (not necessarily His disciples), were telling him to shut up. But Jesus heard his cry and healed his blindness. There is no hint in Scripture that Jesus touched him. He simply said, “Go your way, your faith has healed you.”

Application for Today: One thing I appreciate about the way God healed people in the Bible is that there was no one way He did it. He simply spoke it, He laid hands on them, or used spit and mud. Most healings were instant, while one was not. I like this because humans try to make formulas out of everything. I remember this one guy in the early 1970s who leaned over to his friend and whispered, “I think I’ve got this healing thing down.” Uh…I don’t think so. God does not like us to put Him into a box. As CS Lewis has aptly said, “He’s not a tame lion.”

Mark 11:

v1-7: Jesus sends for a donkey’s colt to ride into Jerusalem. This fulfilled a prophecy: “Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, humble and mounted on a donkey, even a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9). Because of the notions of kingship and salvation contained in these verses, it is clearly a prophecy about the Messiah.

v8-10: The first “Palm Sunday.” Excitement was certainly in the air about this carpenter from Nazareth, but Jesus knew it would not last long. The people had no idea. Some Christians say these same people who hailed Jesus’ entry were condemning Him to the cross later. There is no hint of this in Scripture. I think it is safe to assume that those condemning Jesus along with the Pharisees in Caesar’s court, where a different group of people. I assume these condemners had evil hearts, and why would evil-hearted people leave their abodes to hail and worship Jesus? It makes no sense to me. On the other hand, Jesus did know what was in man, so he never got too excited about being praised by man (John 2:23-25). My point, however, is that the Bible does not claim the people were the same group from the first “Palm Sunday” to the trial of Christ. I suspect that He has many sympathizers in Jerusalem who felt powerless to help Him.

Application for Today: Too often Christians make statements strongly implying that the Bible says such and such when It does not. We need to be like those people in Berea – they daily checked out all that Paul was saying by the Scriptures (Acts 17:10-11).

v13-14: Jesus was hungry, but there were no figs on a fig tree because it wasn’t the right time of year. He cursed it anyway, so no fruit would ever come from it again. Many theologians believe that this was Jesus’ way of predicting what would happen to the nation of Israel over the next many years because it did not recognize God when He visited and consequently produced no “fruit” (deeds of God). Historically, Israel was literally wiped off the map in 70 A.D. by a Roman General named Titus. As the Temple was flattened, most Jews were killed, some were taken captive and dispersed. Israel was overrun by Gentiles until 1948 A.D. when the United Nations officially recognized Israel as a sovereign nation. It wasn’t until 1967, however, following the Miracle Six-Day War, that the Jewish people became the majority in Jerusalem. Many Bible scholars believe that the restoration of Israel as a nation was a major event of End-Time prophecies. Others, however, believe Israel is irrelevant because they believe the New Testament Church is True Israel, and End-Time prophecies refer to this rather than the literal Israel (Replacement Theology). I believe it is difficult to accurately explain all End-Time prophecies, and some views tend to divide Christians, and that is not the purpose of these Bible commentaries. As with many controversies, there are good points on both sides.

v15-18: Jesus drives out the money-changers from the Temple. These guys were doing two things Jesus hated: 1) cheating the people (they did not give fair currency exchanges to people from other countries), and 2) they physically interfered with the Gentiles who came into the Temple’s outer court (the only place Jews permitted them to occupy) to the degree that they could not enter to worship God. Jesus shouts out that the Temple is to be a place of prayer FOR ALL NATIONS, not a den of thieves. By doing this, He fulfilled yet another OT Messianic Prophecy: “Zeal for Thy house will consume Me” (Psalms 69:9 and John 2:17 which substantiates that it is a Messianic prophecy).

v20-22: The disciples discover the tree that Jesus cursed was withered from the roots up! When they asked Jesus about it, Jesus simply says, “Have faith in God.” Maybe He was saying that with man’s knowledge and ways, that tree would never produce fruit except at a certain time of year, but with Jesus reigning in human hearts after He conquered all our enemies, great fruit will be produced all days of a year, even when man would doubt that things could happen. Some say the fig tree represents the nation of Israel, and because it was primed to kill the Messiah, that nation would soon be destroyed, and when that happens it will be crucial that His disciples will have faith in God during this transition from Old Covenant to New Covenant.

v23-26: Jesus encourages us to pray and promises answers will come if we believe and if we have forgiven all others…wow, there’s a big IF. We need “heart checks” constantly throughout life to make sure we hold no grudges. I cannot think of one reason to justify a grudge after I discovered the real Jesus Christ. I know how much I’ve been forgiven so it becomes easier to forgive others who have offended me. If I do not forgive others, why should God forgive me? The Word says that He won’t. That’s too scary for me to bear. God doesn’t require us to forget what has been done, but simply to not hold things against them. He does not require us to be best buddies with those who have deeply wounded us, He demands that we do not hold things against them. Praying for God to bless those who have offended me helped my attitude toward them, and no resentment was left in my heart. Resentment and bitterness are emotional diseases that destroy us, and others (Hebrews 12:15).

v27-33: Another confrontation between Jesus and the Pharisees. I’ve always enjoyed these battles because the good side always comes out on top, and I learn so much insight from what Jesus says to them. God used the evil in the Pharisees to teach His people about the deceptions of life. The Pharisees wanted to know by whose authority did Jesus drive out the money-changers from the Temple. Good, tough question! They thought they could get Him to say something that would turn many against Him. So He “played politician” and answered them with a question of His own. He wanted to know if John the Baptist’s ministry was of God or not, according to them. If they said “God,” then Jesus would say then why didn’t you listen to him. If they said “not God,” then they would turn the people against them because they endorsed John’s preaching. Now He had THEM trapped and they knew it, so they simply said they did not know. Then Jesus wisely said that He wouldn’t answer their question either.

Mark 12:

v1-11: The Parable of the Tenant Farmers – Slaves represent the OT prophets who were killed over the years by the Jewish leaders (Luke 13:33-34 and Matthew 23:29-32). The vine-growers represent Jewish leaders or the Jewish nation. Because “the man who planted the vineyard” (God) was not getting anything good in return he took further action to no avail. As a “last resort” the owner sends his only son to remedy the situation, but the farmers killed him. This refers to Jesus being killed by the Jewish leaders whose fathers murdered the prophets. The stone (Jesus) which the builders (Jewish leaders) rejected (crucified) this became the chief cornerstone (Head of the true Church of God).

v13-17: Jesus’ enemies attempt another trap – Should they pay taxes to Caesar or not? They knew that the tax system was unfair and corrupt, and that the Jews hated the Romans and their taxes. So if Jesus said, “Yes,” then the Jewish people would not like Him. If He said, “No,” the Roman government would come down on Him. So the trap was set. Jesus’ famous answer was, “Render [give to] Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” He won again. Yes, they should pay to whom things are owed, but since God owns everything, they should give all, their lives and idols in life, etc. to Him. I recall one day my assistant principal called me into his office to rebuke me for talking about Jesus in the school. At one point he said, “Well ya know Dave you should render unto Caesar…” Meaning this school district belongs to the government and the government says not to proselytize.” I responded, “Yes, but do you know the rest of that quote?” He looked bewildered (he did not know it). I said, “But give the things that are God’s to God.” So I continued to say that He owns everything, including these buildings. He didn’t know what to say, which to this day, I find quite curious. People of this world love to half-quote Jesus (most don’t even know they are quoting Him). When some part of a verse is omitted by this world, you can be sure that it is the most important part of the quote. For example, many times people say, “Man does not live by bread alone.” But they do NOT say the rest, which says, “But on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” There is a repressive spirit constantly trying to hide the truth.

v18-27: Yet another trap is set – A sect of Jewish leaders called Sadducees did not believe in life after death, this is why they were so “sad-you-see?”[ Sorry]. Oh, and the Pharisees were not “fair-ya-see?” [Sorry again]. So the “sad ones” asked Jesus who a woman would be married to in the after life if her various earthly legal (according to Mosaic Law) husbands died. Jesus said their error was that they did not know the Scriptures nor the power of God. In the after-life, saved humans will be like the angels, there will be no more need to marry. We will not beget children in heaven. Furthermore, Jesus quoted the OT when God spoke of Abraham who had already died: “I AM (not “I was”) the God of Abraham….[God] is not the God of the dead, but of the living…” i.e., there IS an afterlife!

v28-34: Jesus reveals the two most important commandments: 1) Love God with all ya got, and 2) Love your neighbor as yourself. When we obey these two, all others will be obeyed as well. A man agreed with this teaching, and Jesus said to him a very interesting thing: “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” Somehow this scared others at the scene so that they did not dare ask Jesus any more questions. I think Jesus was saying that just head knowledge of the truth is not salvation, but that it has to be in our hearts, there has to be a change or conversion point where we surrender all to Jesus (“Ye must be born-again” – John 3:3). I was raised in a church, and I always believed in God, Jesus, and the Bible. I was not saved, however, until I fessed up my sins and gave my whole life over to Jesus (James 2:19). Only then did I start acting like a Christian. Even Satan believes in one God, but God is NOT in his heart. He wants to be God. God wants to be worshiped, not because He is on some ego trip – that was proven in Christ. But I think He knows that we are at our best when we worship Him – the almighty One who never withholds any good thing from us (Psalms 84:11)! The head knowledge of God in humans must travel several inches down into the heart…a long distance for some.

v35-37: Jesus uses Scripture to indicate that the son of David in the Messianic sense is much more than merely a son. It thrilled the crowd.

v41-44: In the eyes of God, the magnitude of giving is relative. The Jewish leaders gave out of their surplus only, while a very poor widow gave only a “penny” but it was all she had to live on. She was the best giver according to Jesus. Some Christians tithe (give 10% of their gross income to their church), but I don’t think we should expect any great reward for giving God’s money back to Him. If we tithed 90% and lived off the remaining 10%, maybe that would be impressive. If we give according to God’s Spirit, He will meet our needs (Matthew 6:33).

Mark 13:

Note: For more details and interpretations dealing with this chapter, see my commentary on Mathew 24.

v1-2: The disciples were admiring the buildings in Jerusalem, then Jesus said the stones in the Temple would be utterly destroyed, not one would be left atop another. This literally came true in 70 AD when a Roman army headed up by General Titus destroyed Jerusalem. According to the Jewish historian Josephus, the heat got so intense that it melted the gold in the Temple causing it to seep in between the stones. Later, the Romans pried the stones apart to get the gold, and not one stone was left on top of the other.

v3-27: Jesus lists the signs of the end of the age and His Second Coming:

  1. Many false Christs and false prophets, empowered to perform signs and wonders, will arise and mislead many people.
  2. Wars and rumors of wars.
  3. Earthquakes and famines will be just the beginning of worse things to come.
  4. The disciples will be dragged into courts and be flogged in synagogues and stand before governors for Jesus’ sake (and when this happens they are not to worry about what to say for the Holy Spirit will give them the right words).
  5. The Gospel will be preached to all nations.
  6. Family members will betray one another even to the point of causing death.
  7. The disciples (and other believers?) will be hated on the account of Jesus’ name, but the one who endures to the end will be saved.
  8. The ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION* will be set up in the Temple and when it is seen, people in Judea must flee to the mountains without turning back to gather anything.
  9. A time of tribulation, and unless God shortened this time, no one would have been saved.
  10. Jesus comes again and gathers up His people from the farthest end of the earth to the farthest end of Heaven.
  11. After this tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and stars will fall from heaven and powers in the heavens will be shaken.

Note: This “lack of light” is considered to be literal with the dispensationalist view. The historical view, however, maintains that it it symbolic of coming judgment because each time in the Old Testament those phrases are used, light never dimmed and there was judgment. I favor the historical view. I think it is very important to respect consistency in God’s Word when interpreting rather than abandoning that consistency to satisfy a bias.

*The ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION: The OT Book of Daniel in 9:27, 11:31, and 12:11 talks about it. All theories can generally be divided into two camps: 1) it has already occurred, and 2) it will occur in the future. Throughout history conquerors of Jerusalem would desecrate the Temple and set up detestable things (even pigs) to worship in Old Testament times. Perhaps of note, considering the context of this passage in Mark, it may put this close to that 70 AD date. Here, the Roman army surrounded Jerusalem ready to pounce, but the general was called back to Rome for other important business, probably Nero’s death. This would make Jesus’ warning to flee to the mountains more tenable as the unexpected retreat gave the Jewish Christians a chance to flee, and flee they did to the town of Pella according to historian Josephus. Shortly later, the army returned and did the damage. The “abomination” would be the pagan Roman soldiers and the “desolation” would be the carnage inflicted by those Gentiles on the Jews. Many believe this was God’s judgment against the Jewish nation for rejecting Jesus Christ. Some believe the Abomination of Desolation was the erection of the Dome of the Rock Mosque by Muslims. Some believe it was something that a pope did years ago or will do in the future. Some believe that the Muslims will do away with the Catholic Mass. So there are many theories, but I believe the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. is the best explanation.

v30: Jesus said that this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.

Note: Noted Bible translator dispensationalist Cyrus Scofield placed a footnote on the word “generation” in this verse because he is a futurist, meaning he asserts that End-Time prophecies are yet to be fulfilled. Historicists, on the other hand, sharply disagree and maintain that most prophecies have been fulfilled with certain historic events. They would never interpret “race” for “generation” here. I side with the historicists. I don’t believe that translators should let theories dictate translations. For me, there is no doubt that Jesus was referring to the total destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. A generation is about 40 years. Jesus said these words in 33 AD. Luke’s account was more specific. He mentions Jerusalem being surrounded by armies (21:20) lending much credibility to the historicists’ view.

v31: Jesus says, “Heaven and earth shall pass away but My Words will not pass away.” This is one reason why we need to love and marry His Word to our hearts above anything this world can offer us.

v32: Jesus said that no one will know the hour of the end, not even the angels nor the Son, only the Father knows. At first glance, this appears to conflict with the deity of Christ. How can Jesus be God in the flesh and say something like this? I think it is best explained in Philippians Chapter 2 where it talks about how God limited Himself temporarily when He became “a Son.” Could the man Jesus be omnipresent? Of course not, He was flesh and blood. Does this make Him not God? No. Furthermore, God needed to learn obedience to a higher authority. This is why He came as “a son” (Hebrews 2:17-18; 5:8).

v33-37: Jesus warns us to be on the alert for His Coming again. How can we be ready? I think by digging into His Word, worshiping Him, and staying in close contact with other strong believers.

Mark 14:1-31 Only – Where Did Evil Come From?

v1-2: The chief priests and scribes were trying to figure out how to capture Jesus by stealth and kill Him. They couldn’t do it in public for they feared a riot. This shows that Jesus had lots of supporters in Jerusalem.

v3-11: Jesus was at Simon the Leper’s house in Bethany and a woman came in and poured costly perfume over Jesus’ head. This ticked off some people as they viewed it as a waste of money. Jesus defended her by saying they can always help the poor but they will not have Him much longer. Jesus also proclaimed that this woman would be forever remembered for what she did, and it has been so throughout the years since. This woman was Mary, Lazarus’ sister, not the woman who was caught in adultery (John 11:2). At this point, Judas Iscariot, the betrayer, left the scene to meet with the priests and made a money deal with them so they could grab Jesus without a crowd around. Judas was a thief. He was in charge of the “money box” for Jesus and the Twelve, and he would pilfer some out of it at times (John 12:6). So when this expensive perfume was “wasted” on Jesus, it must have really angered him and off he went.

v14-31: The Last Supper – Jesus predicts that the betrayer will dip in the sauce when He does, and that was Judas. Jesus said it would have been better for Judas never to be born. Some may wonder how God could allow Judas to be born knowing what he would do years later. First of all, when God predicts the future, He does not cause the future event to occur. God simply has the ability to see events before they happen. I am predicting that the New York Yankees will not make it to the World Series. Now WHEN this occurs, none of you would accuse little ol’ me of making the Yankees stink so bad that they get eliminated (I’m just seeing which Yankee fans are really reading all this – because I’ll hear from them who read it). [NOTE: My prediction, of course did come true for 2011 and now 2012…and I’ll even extend it for 2014…and…]. Critics are in error if they think God should be blamed for Judas’ decision. God did not make Judas betray Jesus.

“Rabbit Trail” Issue = The origin of evil – I believe it is possibly found in Isaiah 14:12-14 when Lucifer chose pride and wanted to rise above God. God did not make Lucifer choose unwisely. God giving choice to angels and humans is not evil in and by itself. God presented the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil which is not evil. It does give evil a chance to emerge, however. I used to think that evil originally came from angelic rebellion, and it was then passed on via the serpent in the Garden of Eden to humans. Now I think it always existed as a concept but was never “activated” or materialized until Lucifer rebelled. For example, God, who is good, always existed with no beginning. If good exists, “not good” (evil) must automatically exist because you cannot just have the concept of good alone. It automatically carries its antithesis. But before it became real, evil was just a concept.

I don’t have all the answers on this deep theological and philosophical question on the origin of evil. For example, if God made all life sealed in righteousness forever, then there would be no perfecting of love. For example, only perfected love loves the unlovely as well as conquers evil. So evil is used by God for ultimate triumph and glory via the completion or perfecting of love. Scripture states that God’s love is perfected in us (1John 12.17). So did God need evil to arise to perfect love? “Need” is too strong of a word when connected to God. The Scripture claims that God has no needs (Acts 17:25). God certainly WANTED to perfect love. God created the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Perhaps this was His way of making the activation of evil, which always existed as a concept, a reality. Isaiah 45:7 says that God creates evil. I’m not sure if this means the concept of evil or specific examples of evil be “activated.”

Bruce Plummer, retired pastor of Christ Community Church in Brockport, NY, adds insights :

The origins of evil have caused quite a bit of theological debate over the centuries. Some have even used the existence of evil in the world as a “proof” that a holy omnipotent God doesn’t exist. Christians have come to a few conclusions, based on the Scriptures. One, we won’t understand completely the origins of evil, as in the why’s, but we do know that God looked ahead and permitted it. It’s hard to understand why but that’s our limited human perspective. It’s here, nonetheless. He doesn’t ‘author’ evil and never did (see James 1.13) but does allow it for His purposes. His greatness can be seen in that He overcomes evil and isn’t stymied by it at all. In fact, He works it together for good for His people and helps them to overcome evil. I watched our dear friend Dan Hinman die from MS complications, yet he and his family gave glory to God in the face of this great evil in a way that others had to respect. Yet, God didn’t give MS to Dan, but he and his family took its worst and defeated it in God’s power. I respect that greatly and see God’s power in ordinary people made extraordinary in the face of evil. The fall of man, our choices in general as a race, and the resultant domination of the devil are squarely to blame for evil. Isaiah 45:7 says that He “creates evil” (KJV) but that same word, evil, is translated “calamity” in other versions. Calamity is the result of evil and God creates calamity in the face of evil as discipline or correction for making evil choices so as to discourage us away from evil. Picture the calamity of addiction to sin, crimes committed or wrongs done. We don’t ever want to go there again because of the corrective calamity God creates. Hope those thoughts add constructively to the conversation.

Mark 14:32-72: Interesting segment for v66-72

v32-42: “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” Another famous quote that few people realize came from our Lord. Jesus is about to be arrested and goes off to pray, but asks some disciples to stay awake while He prays. He asks the Father to allow Him to escape the crucifixion, but then says, “Yet not what I will, but what Thou wilt.” Once again, Jesus passes a huge test. Was He willing to go to the extreme extent to obey His Father and redeem millions of human souls? He was. Even though Jesus tells Peter, James, and John that He is almost to the point of death with grief and anguish, they fall asleep (flesh was weak) just before the soldiers, who were led by Judas, came to get Jesus.

Application for Today: Anytime when our serving God gets tough on our flesh, remember what Jesus endured, it will give us strength in the time of need. When we are not diligently watching and praying, we slide toward stronger temptations to go astray.

v43-50: The Arrest – Judas uses a kiss to identify Jesus to the soldiers. Jesus implied that it would have been more logical to arrest Him when He taught openly in public but, in order to fulfill prophecy, it happened this way. The OT prophet Zechariah said, “Strike down the shepherd and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered” (13:7). Jesus Himself identified this verse as being fulfilled by this event (Matthew 26:31). When one reads Chapter 13 in Zechariah, one would not understand verse 7 to be a Messianic prophecy, but Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, sees and proclaims more depth to God’s Word that anyone else.

v61: More prophecy fulfillment – Jesus kept silent in front of His accusers (Isaiah 53:7): “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth.” The whole Chapter 53 in Isaiah is about Jesus, even revealing that wicked men would die with Him yet in a rich man’s grave he would lie (Joseph of Arimathea was wealthy and allowed Jesus to be buried in his unused tomb, and, of course, there were two thieves killed beside Him). While flying back from Israel in 1977, I shared this chapter with a Jewish woman and her young son explaining that it was all about Jesus. She was amazed that I knew anything about “their Bible.” I told her that the Jewish Scriptures are great and I read them often. Hopefully “seeds were planted in good soil.”

v62-65: Back in the early 1970s, I had a hometown neighborhood friend say that Jesus never actually claimed He was the Messiah. I think he was referring to the fact that Jesus often addressed Himself as the Son of Man (not God). In this verse while responding to that direct question about being the Messiah, Jesus directly said that He is the Messiah. This, of course, flipped out the high priest so much so that he tore at his clothes and the horrible treatment toward Jesus began.

v66-72: Peter’s tough time – the three denials did come true. Before we pass harsh judgment against Peter, his problem was the fear of man. Do we have that problem? Sure do. I recall many times I chickened out of witnessing because I feared what people would think of me. I’ve denied the Lord in this way. One day long ago I prayed over a list of 5 surgeons to decide which one to go to. I felt God told me to go to a certain one. He was Jewish and I chickened out, but thought I would speak up my next visit. He was 42 years old and suddenly died of a heart attack before my next visit. I’ve got to get “me” out of my life’s equation. Mature Christians live by this quote: “It’s not about me, it’s about Him.” Lastly regarding Peter – he made a great comeback. And so can we, even after we are faithless to Him. 🙂

Mark 15:1-15 Only:

v1-15: Jesus before Pilate – Pilate, being a typical Roman authority figure, did not like the Jews or their religious beliefs. He knew that the chief priests were envious of Jesus’ popularity so he saw through them quickly. He also did not find any guilt in Jesus. His wife had a nightmarish dream about an innocent man coming before him, and she had warned him to do no harm to him (Matthew 27:19). For these reasons, Pilate wanted Jesus to go free, and he tried without success. Finally, as a last ditch attempt, he followed a custom where he would release any prisoner the Jews wanted after their feast celebration was over. He offered them a choice between Jesus and Barabbas. Pilate probably chose Barabbas because he was guilty of violent overthrow of governmental authority and was a murderer. I think Pilate assumed since Barabbas was so evil, the Jews would pick Jesus to go free. But then most ironic event in human history took place here. Sinners, stirred up by the chief priests, wanted the taker of life to remain among them and screamed for the Giver of Life to be destroyed. How sad. On a smaller scale but still of the same demonic spirit, many people today want abortion rights (an innocent life is taken) while opposing the death penalty for murderers (takers of life). This, of course, disproves evolution….the human race has not changed into something better.

One final note: The factor that finally pushed Pilate to execute Jesus was when the crowd threatened his position. Since Jesus claimed to be a king and Rome tolerated no king but Caesar, Pilate would be viewed as an enemy or traitor to the Roman cause and would have been in big trouble. History reveals that shortly after this horrible fiasco, Pilate was replaced anyway….God has His ways.

Application for Today: If we selfishly cling to something, we will eventually lose it. If we give up something for God, we will always gain in some way.

Mark 15:16-37 Only – HE DID IT!!!

v17-20: Jesus gets mocked and beaten before being led out for crucifixion. Jesus demonstrates great restraint. This is very difficult for us to imagine, especially considering that He had power to summon angels for help (Matthew 26:53) or to speak a judgment against those attacking Him, but He must follow God’s voice only (John 8:26).

v23: Jesus is offered wine mixed with myrrh. The only act of mercy during crucifixion was drugged wine that dulled pain slightly. Jesus, knowing He must suffer for all our sin, refuses it. Isaiah 53:10-12 reveals that God was pleased to bruise Jesus, not because He is sadomasochistic, but because He knew that if Jesus went the full extent necessary to redeem lost sinners, then the outcome would be outstanding – well beyond human imagination (even beyond Willy Wonka’s Grand Prize)!

v24: The soldiers saw that Jesus’ robe was seamless so they gambled for it rather than tearing it up for each of them which would ruin its value. This fulfilled OT prophecy about the Messiah (Psalms 22:18).

v27-28: Two robbers were crucified with Him. This fulfilled OT prophecy (Isaiah 53:9).

29: As people passed by, they wagged their heads mocking Him – also prophesied in Psalms 22:8.

v33: A strange darkness fell over the land. No one knows for sure if this was a well-timed eclipse or a supernatural event. There are different theories. Events such eclipses or stars converging do not last longer than 3 minutes. This light moved in a way that it could be followed from walking on earth and then stopped over Bethlehem. This took 6 hours.

v34: Jesus cries out, “My God My God why hast Thou forsaken Me?” I think Jesus chose these words for two reasons. First, as He was literally becoming sin (2 Corinthians 5:21) God’s spirit had to withdraw from Him because God cannot tolerate sin in His presence (Habakkuk 1:13), leaving Jesus totally alone as man – probably the first time He felt this way, at least since His baptism in the River Jordan when he most likely received power to do miracles. Second, He was quoting the first verse in Psalms Chapter 22, which perfectly and specifically describes the crucifixion hundreds years before its invention. Jesus was proclaiming to the world that He was fulfilling that Scripture at that time.

v37: It was over – after 6 hours of physical torture, social embarrassment, and emotional and spiritual isolation, Jesus breathed His last. HE DID IT! His mission was accomplished! He never gave in to Satan. He never did anything or said any word unless the Farther told Him to do so. He led the perfect obedient life. He won the Biggest Battle of the War (and so did we). Satan was defeated, but not yet destroyed. Now it was up to the heavenly Father to raise Jesus from the dead, and send the Holy Spirit into humans in order to get the Church going and to further destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8). The War will end when Satan and his demons are thrown into the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:10).

Mark 15:38-47:

v38: The Temple veil was torn from top to bottom. Some critics think this was not a literal occurrence because there were no records outside the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke to verify that this really happened. In those days, about the only prominent historian was Josephus, and he live some 20 years after Jesus walked the earth. The religious Jews at the time of the crucifixion would certainly NOT want this to become public because it was a clear sign that Jesus broke down the barrier between God and man. The very purpose of the veil was to separate sinful man from a Holy God. It shielded man from the Holy of Holies where God’s Spirit dwelt in Old Testament times. No human was allowed past it unless he was the High Priest during the annual Passover celebration. He had to be sprinkled in lamb’s blood to survive.

Assuming the veil did tear because the gospel writers said so, I have no idea how it was fixed. I think the Jews would be scared to do it because they would not realize that God was not there anymore. The entire Jewish Temple system was destroyed 70 A.D. by the Romans which confirms Jesus’ prophetic words and signifies that the Old Covenant was null and void. Not surprisingly, the system has not yet been returned, even in Israel. Logically, however, one would think that since Israel has been dominated by Jews since 1948 and especially 1967, the orthodox Jews would have rebuilt the system of animal sacrifice. One obstacle is that the site upon which they would insist it being built is now occupied by the Islamic Dome of the Rock. No where in the Old Testament Scriptures, however, does it state or imply that the Temple must be on that site. This is where the Muslims believe Mohammad ascended into Heaven. The Dome would therefore need to be torn down to build Jewish Temple on that spot. This would probably cause a world war. Jewish insistence regarding the Temple site is helping prevent its existence. God has His ways of getting His will done. Furthermore, I’m afraid that few Christians today realize how insulting it would be to God to have that Temple and system re-instituted. The Book of Hebrews makes this plain. Sorry my dispensational brothers and sisters in Christ, but this prevailing modern viewpoint about Temple rebuilding is clouding God’s New Covenant. It stems from a grossly wrong interpretation of Daniel 9:24-27 and 2 Thessalonians 2:4.

v39: The Roman guard standing in front of Jesus when He breathed His last was quite awestruck by it all and proclaimed that Jesus was the son of God (or at least an innocent man).

v43-47: Joseph of Arimathea, a rich man, gathered courage and asked Pilate for the body of Jesus so he could bury Him in his own unused tomb. After Pilate made sure that Jesus was dead, he granted Joseph permission. This fulfilled prophecy from Isaiah 53:9. Joseph brought a linen sheet and took Jesus down from the cross and wrapped Him in it.

The Shroud of Turin – Some people believe that the material that Joseph used to wrap Jesus was preserved over the centuries and discovered fairly recently. It is called the Shroud of Turin. Turin is a city in northern Italy where it is kept. There have been limited tests on it by reputable scientists and results are inconclusive. The Roman Catholic Church has kept it from the world. They’ve only let it be studied a couple of times over many years.

There is come compelling evidence, however. Scientists believe there is no evidence that someone years ago could have the technology to form a forgery. They cannot explain why blood marks are on the forehead, wrists (hands), feet, and one rib side. They also do not know how this image could even form. Without going into more scientific detail because it would take too long, I believe that the image is not Jesus. My reason lies with my understanding of how God works. He does not want people to worship objects. The same God who did not allow the burial place of Moses (Jude 9) to be known (and I think it was because He knew people would worship it) is the same God who left no artifacts behind from Jesus Himself. Can you imagine what people would do if we had a table that Jesus made with His own hands?! People would worship it, pray to it, and sooner or later claim that it had done some miracle for them. This is not from God. He alone is to be worshiped. Strange as it may seem at first thought, these types of beliefs distract people from the actual Jesus Christ. If it inspired people to get into God’s Word with a passion to know Him more intimately, then I’d say the fruit of such would be good. But this is not what we see going on. People believe they must see or touch the object to get closer to God or to get prayers answered or to get miracles in their lives. This is not what Jesus came and died for. Bear in mind that the Scripture states clearly that false signs and wonders (or attesting miracles) would be performed by the spirit of the Antichrist (Matthew 24:24 and Revelation 13:13). People who are into religion and not the real Jesus, tend to gravitate toward these types of claims. People who are into relationship with God, tend to be turned off by these things. I still vividly recall talking to a young man at a restaurant back in the 1970s. He just became saved and was asking lots of good questions. For years he had been wearing something around his neck that he believed protected or blessed him, and he asked me if it was a proper practice in God’s eyes. So I shared the truth about the Scriptures and how God wants us to have faith in Jesus, not things. There is no other mediator between God and man but Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5). As he was receiving my answer in his heart, he felt something hit his lap. He looked down and his eyes got bigger than potatoes! The chain that held this object had broken and it fell into his lap. He’s never worn one since, and is still alive and doing well spiritually. The real Jesus Christ is a bondage breaker and a liberator from man’s traditions and false religions and false signs and wonders. Amen.

Mark 16:

v1-3: None of Jesus’ close friends or His disciples were expecting a resurrection on that third day. They must have thought Jesus was talking in another hard-to-understand parable when He spoke about this miraculous event. In these three verses, it’s revealed that His friends came with spices for a dead body. No anticipation of life here. Skeptics have postulated that His disciples were so in awe with their leader that their delirious imaginations ran wild and they thought they saw Him alive. The truth is that His followers were not even expecting it.

v4-8: After seeing and conversing with an angel in the empty tomb, and getting the word that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead, they ran back to the disciples in fear and astonishment. I can’t imagine the emotions these people felt!

v9-11: He first appears alive to Mary Magdalene whom He cast out seven demons. She then went to the disciples and told them she saw the Lord but they refused to believe her. Again, no imagination or delirium going on here.

v12-13: He appears in a different form to two other guys while walking along a road in the country. They found the disciples and told them, and they still refused to believe. Why a different form? The Bible does not say. What was different? The Bible does not say.

v14: He finally appears to all eleven (the Twelve minus Judas) and rebukes their unbelief. After all Jesus has been through, He still needs to rebuke His disciples. I’m not criticizing the disciples, but rather I’m trying to understand how Jesus felt through His life’s experience on earth.

v15-18: The Great Commission – Jesus commands that they go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Those who believe must be baptized. Miracles, speaking in tongues, healings, protection from poison, and casting out demons will be part of the anointing for those who fulfill this commission.

v19-20: Jesus ascends into Heaven and sits down at the right hand of God (place of authority and power). And the disciples? They were well anointed after being baptized in the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, and went out all over doing as Jesus commanded.

Note regarding The Resurrection: There was a book  entitled, “Who Moved the Stone?” by Frank Morison. This question is deep and most significant attesting to the validity of the resurrection of Christ. Someone did move the stone. Here are the possibilities:

1) Jesus – He somehow survived the cross and the spear in His side and, though He was pronounced dead by the soldiers who reported it to Pilate, was still alive…and had the strength to break the seal from inside and move it all by Himself. He may have known about a herbal drug that can make a human seem to be dead when alive. Then He would play a Osama Bin Laden role and stay behind the scenes telling His followers what to say and do…and if you are still reading this, I have a great bridge in Brooklyn to sell to you. 🙂

2) The Soldiers – But they would have been executed by the Roman government. They had no motive, in fact, their whole motive was to see that no one touched that site.

3) Some Disciples – They could have bribed or drugged the guards and moved the stone and took out the dead body of their hero and buried it in a secret place, then preached that He had risen from the dead. The truth is they were scattered and scared, thinking they could be next in line for crucifixion. They were in no mood to proclaim a resurrected Jesus in public! They were later persecuted and eventually killed for preaching a resurrected Jesus. People do not tolerate persecution and then die for what they know to be a lie.

4) Strangers – They bribed the soldiers to look the other way, and they got out Jesus’ dead body and buried it elsewhere in order to pull off the greatest hoax in history. As far-fetched as this theory is, the fact is that when people do such a thing, it almost always comes out sometime because people get so proud of themselves for pulling it off that they just have to tell somebody. Furthermore, the soldiers knew they would be executed if Jesus disappeared, but his did not happen. Why? Perhaps they were smart enough to go directly to the Jewish priests rather than their commanding officer from Rome. They may have realized these priests have swaying power in certain circumstances with Roman rule. When they reported all that had happened to the chief priests and elders, the priests counseled together and gave lots of money to the soldiers ordering them to say to the authorities that Jesus’ disciples stole the body while the guards were sleeping. Since the priests knew that “sleeping on duty” was a capital offense, they assured the guards they would influence the governor on the guards’ behalf (probably more bribes) [Matthew 28:11-15]. But, according to the logic of the above theory #3, for those with even half an open mind, the theory should fall flat.

5) God via Angels – Yes! The stone mover finally revealed. This makes more sense than any of the above. And this was Frank Morison’s point.