What Kind of Dirty Are You? (Mark 4:1-20)

When I was growing up, my best friend was Clyde. Clyde had a vivid imagination. Whenever I went to his house to play, he dreamed up some scenario for us to act out. “Cops and Robbers” was too tame for him. Instead, we’d play “FBI Special Agents and Mafia Dons.” Invariably, he’d introduce each scenario with the word pertrank. I looked it up in a dictionary. It didn’t exist, except in Clyde’s mind. It meant something like pretend or dream up or imagine, but to an extreme degree. The value of pertranking was that for a few brief hours of … Continue reading What Kind of Dirty Are You? (Mark 4:1-20)

Was Jesus Insane? Possessed? Opposed to Family Values? (Mark 3.20–35)

If I were inventing a messianic religion, I would not write the kind of stories about the Messiah we find in Mark 3.20–35. According to that passage, when Jesus’ family heard about what he was doing, they formed a psychological opinion: “He is out of his mind.” Pious, well-educated religion professors made a spiritual diagnosis: “He is possessed by Beelzebub [i.e., the devil]!” When Jesus’ family arrived on the scene, no doubt to take him home and care for him, he brazenly asked, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” In a patriarchal society such as first-century Palestine, Jesus’ rhetorical … Continue reading Was Jesus Insane? Possessed? Opposed to Family Values? (Mark 3.20–35)

Who Speaks for Jesus? (Mark 3.7–19)

Who speaks for Jesus? Today, a cacophony of voices claims to speak for the “real Jesus.” The chapter titles of The Jesus Quest by Ben Witherington capture the essence of those contrary voices: Jesus the Talking Head Jesus the Itinerant Cynic Philosopher Jesus, Man of the Spirit Jesus the Eschatological Prophet Jesus the Prophet of Social Change Jesus the Sage: The Wisdom of God Jesus: Marginal Jew or Jewish Messiah? Which of these contradictory voices speaks for the real Jesus? Mark 3.7–19 offers two vignettes in answer to that question. Let’s take a close look at both. In Mark 3.7–12, … Continue reading Who Speaks for Jesus? (Mark 3.7–19)

Who Jesus Is. How We Should Respond. (Mark 2.13–3.6)

No one enjoys conflict, but sometimes is helpful if it clarifies choices we need to make. Mark 2.13–3.6 records four conflicts Jesus had with Pharisees. over (1) eating with sinners (2.13–17), (2) fasting (2.18–22), (3) picking grain on the Sabbath (2.23–28), and (4) healing the sick on the Sabbath (3.1–6). Each conflict clarified Jesus’ identity and mission, as well as our response to him. First, the conflict over eating with sinners (2.13–17): Jesus called Levi son of Alphaeus to follow him. Levi was a tax collector. Then as now, no one likes a tax collector. In Jesus’ day, tax collectors … Continue reading Who Jesus Is. How We Should Respond. (Mark 2.13–3.6)

Cheap Words and Hard Deeds (Mark 2.1–12)

Leon, Joseph, and Clyde all thought they were Jesus Christ. In reality, they were chronic mental patients at a hospital in Ypsilanti, Michigan. They suffered from psychotic delusional disorder, grandiose type. In the 1960s, psychologist Milton Rokeach put Leon, Joseph, and Clyde together in a small group. He hoped that interacting with one another might cure them of their delusions, since—logically speaking—there could only be one Jesus Christ. John Ortberg comments on the results: “The experiment led to some interesting conversations. One of the men would claim, ‘I’m the messiah, the Son of God. I am on a mission. I … Continue reading Cheap Words and Hard Deeds (Mark 2.1–12)

Lessons from Jesus’ Miracles (Mark 1.21–45)

Mark 1.21–45 describes three miracles Jesus: the exorcism of a demon-possessed man (vv. 21–28), the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law (vv. 29–34), and the cleansing of a man with leprosy (vv. 40–45). What lessons about Jesus do these miracles teach us? First, Jesus was a man of word and deed. We usually—and rightly—think of Jesus as an excellent teacher. “The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law” (v. 22). And yet, during his lifetime, Jesus was also well known as an exorcist and miracle-worker, as the … Continue reading Lessons from Jesus’ Miracles (Mark 1.21–45)

Margaret Thatcher, RIP

“It is ironic that just when those countries such as the Soviet Union, which have tried to run everything from the centre, are learning that success depends on dispersing power and decisions away from the centre, there are some in the community who seem to want to move in the opposite direction. We have not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the state in Britain only to see them reimposed at a European level with a European superstate exercising a new dominance from Brussels.” – in the “Bruges speech”, 1988 Continue reading Margaret Thatcher, RIP

Repent, Believe, Follow, and Fish (Mark 1.1–20)

Mark’s Gospel is not a biography of Jesus Christ. It does not narrate the course of his life from birth to death. Instead, it begins at the outset of his ministry, when he was about thirty years old. This exclusion of biographical material can be frustrating to readers who want to know the innumerable details of Jesus’ life. But Mark’s purpose in writing about Jesus is evangelistic, not merely biographical. Jesus’ ministry is good news that the world needs to hear. Mark 1.1–20 tells us five things about Jesus. He is The fulfillment of prophecy God’s Beloved Son Satan’s greatest … Continue reading Repent, Believe, Follow, and Fish (Mark 1.1–20)