Category Archive: Bible – NT – Mark

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July 14, 2005

Mark 5:1-20 Sermon Notes

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Mark 5:1-20
(July 3, 2005, Sermon Notes)

There are a number of unique elements in the story about the man with the legion. First, Jesus casts out, not just one but a legion of demons. Second, the word legion has special connotations. And third, this exorcism takes place outside of Galilee. As Jesus showed His power over the nations by calming the storm at sea, He again demonstrates His power to advance God’s kingdom by calming this walking storm on Gentile turf.


Jesus is in the Decapolis (Greek: “ten cities”). In the past, this region belonged to Israel. But these cities — and even the Jews in them — had become Hellenized. They formed an alliance precisely because they didn’t want to be part of Israel; they wanted instead to maintain their identity as Greek cities.

The first person to meet Jesus is an extremely unclean man. He has an unclean spirit and lives in tombs. He’s naked, like an animal, and he’s self-destructive. In fact, he’s a living picture of apostate Israel (Isa. 65), and not all the high culture in Decapolis could bind or tame him.

The man falls at Jesus’ feet, recognizing His authority, and requests a policy of mutual neutrality. It turns out that this man has a legion of demons — possibly as many as 6000. The word “legion” is important. A legion is a Roman military unit. Israel thought Rome’s legions were the enemy and the Decapolis thought Rome’s legions would keep them safe. But this territory is really ruled by Satan and his legions. Satan’s legions, not Rome’s, are the real enemy.

The demons want to stay in the region and in a sense Jesus grants the request. There is a herd of pigs nearby, probably tended by Jews who have become so Hellenized they don’t mind being in contact with the pigs. Jesus sends the demons into the pigs and they rush into the sea and drown.

Jesus brought His followers safely through the sea but He drowns their enemies, like Pharaoh’s armies, in that sea. That’s a foretaste of the New Exodus Jesus will accomplish: He passes through the waters of judgment and brings us safely with Him (think of baptism) but He casts His and our enemies into the sea and drowns them.


Up to this point, there have been only two main characters in the story. But now we hear about the people of the region. The pig-herds report what happened and crowds gather. They see that the man who had the legion of demons is now cleansed and restored and they respond with fear. Just as the disciples were more afraid of Jesus calming the storm than of the storm itself, these people are more afraid of Jesus than they had been of the man when he had the legion of demons.

Then they hear more of the story — about the man, but also about the pigs. Jesus has destroyed a marketable product and these people love pigs more than they love this man. Besides, the destruction of the pigs makes it clear that Jesus is acting with the power of Israel’s God, the God of the Torah, the God from whom they wanted to liberate themselves.

Repentance hurts, and the people of this region refuse to repent. The demon begged Jesus not to sent them out of the country. But if they stay, Jesus must go. And now the people beg Jesus to leave.

He is rejected and that rejection foreshadows the end of the story when Jesus will take the place of the demon-possessed man, naked, isolated, outside the city, shouting incomprehensible things, cut by the stones in the Roman lash, and finally dead in the tomb. That is how the demons will finally be defeated.

Jesus withdraws, but He doesn’t abandon His plan to reclaim this territory. The man who had the legion begs to go with Jesus, but instead Jesus sends him to proclaim how “the Lord” had compassion on him. The man obeys, telling people what Jesus did, thereby identifying Jesus as “the Lord.”

Jesus has left behind a missionary, the first apostle to the Gentiles, and by his message King Jesus will begin to reconquer the Decapolis, as a foretaste of what He will do through His church in the world.

Posted by John Barach @ 8:58 pm | Discuss (0)
June 27, 2005

Mark 4:35-41 Sermon Notes

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Mark 4:35-41
(June 26, 2005, Sermon Notes)

Jesus said that God’s kingdom would grow from a mustard seed into a tree that shelters the world (Mk. 4:30-32). Now Jesus demonstrates that He has the power to overcome all obstacles to that kingdom’s growth.


On the day Jesus tells the parables, He leaves the crowds on the shore to cross, with His followers, to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. Those who don’t have Jesus because they want to use Him lose Him, but those who do have Him get to receive more from Him (see Mk. 4:25).

The lesson begins en route. A great wind arises and the waves batter the boat. But Jesus is asleep on a pillow — like Jonah, yet without sin.

The disciples wake Him up. “Don’t you care that we’re being destroyed?” they ask, sounding a bit like the demons who expect Jesus to destroy them (Mk. 1:24). They want Jesus to help them bail. But Jesus rebukes the wind (like the demon in Mk. 1:25) and commands the sea to be peaceful. The “great wind” becomes a “great calm.”

This story echoes several others. In the beginning, God ruled the waters, separating them and causing dry land to appear. At the Exodus, He parted the Red Sea for Israel to cross through, which Ps. 77 describes as a triumph over the waters. Several psalms describe Yahweh as the one who calms the sea (Ps. 65:7, where the sea = Gentile world; 89:9; and esp. 107:23-32).

The same God who made the world and rescued Israel is backing Jesus’ mission. Jesus has His authority. He is the new Adam with dominion over all things, the new David who rules even the Gentiles, and He has the authority to calm the raging nations and advance His kingdom.


Jesus then asks the disciples why they are so fearful and how it is that they have no faith. The problem wasn’t that they called on Him; the problem was that they did so in unbelieving fear. Jesus has sent them on a mission, but they didn’t trust Him to protect them as they carried it out.

Jesus’ sleep isn’t just a demonstration of His trust in God; it’s also a test which exposes the disciples’ lack of faith. As in the Psalms, where God appears to be sleeping (Ps. 44:23) only later to wake up and rescue His people (Ps. 78:65), Jesus sleeps and then rises to help.

That’s what He’ll do later on. When the wicked rage like the storm, He’ll sleep in death. But when He rises, He’ll calm the storm and conquer the nations. Even after that, storms will arise. But Jesus calls us to trust Him and call on Him in faith. (In mercy, He hears and rescues — as He does here — even when we call in unbelieving fear.)

The disciples don’t respond in faith even after the rebuke. The “great wind” replaced by the “great calm” fills them with “great fear” of Jesus. They’re more afraid of Him than they were of the storm, it seems. They wonder who He can be if even the wind and sea obey Him. And Mark leaves us to answer that question.

Posted by John Barach @ 12:26 pm | Discuss (0)
June 9, 2005

Mustard Seed (Mark 4:31)

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In His parable about the mustard seed (Mark 4:31-32), Jesus uses the language of Daniel 4 and Ezekiel 17 (and especially 17:22-23) to describe the amazing growth of the kingdom. It will become so large that the birds will seek shade in its branches.

But in Ezekiel 17, what grows into a huge tree is a cedar branch, whereas in Jesus’ parable, however, what grows is a mustard seed. It appears that Jesus is using slightly different imagery, but I wonder why. He doesn’t change the picture of what the kingdom will look like in the end (a huge plant, sheltering the birds) but He does use a different image for the beginning, an image that emphasizes the smallness and apparent insignificance of the starting point.

I’m not persuaded that Jesus is being ironic by depicting the kingdom, as Donahue and Harrington suggest, “not as a lofty cedar but as a mustard bush.” I certainly don’t think that Jesus’ imagery is meant to replace the imagery of Ezekiel 17, as if that earlier imagery was wrong. But perhaps Jesus is correcting some notions of what the kingdom would be like. If Israel thought that being a cedar tree meant being exactly like Babylon (Dan. 4) or the other nations of the world, then hearing the kingdom compared to a gigantic mustard bush might have been shocking.

Of course, the image that Jesus uses, the mustard seed, emphasizes the smallness of the beginning. Perhaps it was possible that when Israel heard the promise in Ezekiel 17, she prided herself on still being a cedar branch and so Jesus uses a different image to correct that pride. The point in Ezekiel’s parable is the same as that of Jesus: the essential nobility and kingdom-worthiness of Israel (“We’re a cedar tree!”) but the smallness and apparently unpromising character of the beginning.

Furthermore, that mustard seed is thrown down on the ground and then rises again. And that also corrects a false image of the kingdom. Ezekiel’s parable simply speaks of a return from exile, of a branch being transplanted into the soil of the Promised Land again. Jesus’ parable speaks of a seed being put in the ground and rising. The kingdom doesn’t simply start with a world conquest. It grows into a world empire because it starts with death and resurrection.

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June 8, 2005

“Unexplained” Parables

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At the end of Mark 3, Jesus identifies two categories, insiders and outsiders. Those who are seated around Him are the insiders, the true members of His family. But those who do not come to Him and listen to Him are the outsiders, in spite of their physical relationship to Him. Mary and Jesus’ brothers are left outside while tax gatherers and others are inside.

That distinction is emphasized when Jesus starts telling parables. When His followers, with the twelve disciples, ask about the parables, Jesus tells them that they have been given to know the mystery of God’s kingdom, but “to those who are outside, all things come in parables.” The insiders get the knowledge; the outsiders get everything in parables. Jesus then goes on to explain the parable of the soil to His followers.

At the end of the parable section in Mark 4, Mark tells us again that Jesus did not speak to the crowds without using parables, but that He explained everything to His disciples. That is what we have already seen in this chapter: the outsiders got only the parable of the soil, but the insiders get the explanation, too.

As readers of this Gospel, we get the explanation of the parable of the soils, which suggests that we are being treated as insiders. But what about the other explanations? It sounds as if Jesus also explained His other parables — the parable of the seed’s growth (4:26-29), for instance, and the parable of the mustard seed (4:30-32) — but we don’t get to hear the explanation of those parables.

Why not? My guess is that Mark wants us to grow in wisdom so that we are able to figure these parables out on our own. And my further guess is that Mark wants us to realize that the explanation of these parables depends, not only on our knowledge of God’s previous revelation (which we call the Old Testament) but also on the rest of the story he’s telling, namely, the Gospel of Mark itself.

If we read the Gospel all the way to the end, we should realize, for instance, what it means for the kingdom to start like a seed being thrown down on the ground and then to rise in a new and more glorious form.

We should also realize what it means for the kingdom not to come all at once, for Israel not to be ready for the harvest but to need planting, and for there to be a period of slow growth before the sower sends out the sickle to reap the harvest. In fact, Mark probably assumes that we’ve read Matthew and we know that Jesus taught His disciples to pray that the Lord of the harvest would send out reapers (Matt. 9:37-38; cf. Luke 10:2).

The parables appear to be left unexplained, but Mark hasn’t left us in the position of outsiders who receive only parables. He also hasn’t simply handed everything to us so that we no longer need to struggle and grow. Rather, he treats us as insiders and gives us an explanation, but the explanation he gives is the rest of the story.

Posted by John Barach @ 3:44 pm | Discuss (0)
June 7, 2005

The Lamp on the Lampstand

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In Mark 4:21, Jesus tells the parable of the lamp: “The lamp does not come to be put under a basket or under a bed, does it? Is it not to be set on a lampstand? Because something is not hidden which will not be revealed nor does anything become hidden except that it might be manifest.”

Jesus appears to be talking about His own ministry: His coming is the coming of “the lamp,” which reveals the things that have been hidden and kept secret. Some things are hidden and secret now, Jesus is saying, and I take Him to be using what is sometimes called the divine passive: God hid these things and kept them secret. But they are hidden and secret for a time only so that later on they might be revealed. And Jesus is the light through whom these things are brought to light.

But when Jesus identifies Himself as “the lamp,” I wonder if He isn’t alluding to the menorah, the lampstand in the Holy Place, which is spoken of as “the lamp” frequently (cf. the LXX of Ex. 25:37 [2x]; 27:20; 30:8 [2x]; 37:19, 23; 39:37; 40:4, 25; Lev. 24:2, 4; Num. 4:9; 8:2 [2x], 3; 1 Sam. 3:3; 1 K 7:49; 1 Chr. 28:15; 2 Chr. 20, 21; 13:11; 2 Chr. 29:7; Zech. 4:2 [2x]).

In the Old Covenant, as Peter Leithart points out, the lamp was under a basket, namely, the tabernacle or the Temple itself. The light shone only on the Holy Place; it didn’t shine out into Israel and the rest of the world. God had hidden that light, but Jesus comes as the light. In and through Him, the light which once was hidden will shine out to the world, revealing what God had always purposed the mystery that was hidden and kept secret in the Old Covenant.

Jesus is also, I think, speaking about His own ministry. Jesus is the light, but He’s keeping His light under a basket for a while. He isn’t allowing demons to speak about Him. He is using parables instead of teaching in an open and straightforward way. For now, He’s David hiding from Saul and that necessitates some degree of secrecy. But He assures His disciples that one day all that was kept secret will be made plain. And so for now, they’re going to have to pay careful attention to what He says.

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June 5, 2005

Mark 4:21-34 Sermon Notes

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Mark 4:21-34
(June 5, 2005, Sermon Notes)

Jesus preached that God’s kingdom was near and that Israel had to repent and trust Him. When opposition arose, Jesus began to teach in parables, stories that often subverted Israel’s expectations of the kingdom.


In the parables of the light and the baskets, Jesus may still be speaking privately to His followers (4:21, 24: “to them”).

Jesus says that “the lamp comes” to be put, not under a basket or bed, but on the lampstand because “nothing has been hidden that won’t be revealed, nor has anything been kept secret except that it might be manifest. Some things are hidden for a while, but only so that later they may be revealed. So the lamp too can’t stay hidden but must be put on the stand.

This parable might apply to the whole Old Covenant. Things were hidden — the lamp itself was under a basket (the tabernacle) — but now, in Jesus, the light is shining and God’s hidden plans are being revealed.

It also applies to Jesus’ ministry. Jesus acts and speaks in a mysterious way, because for now He’s like David hiding from Saul, but one day everything will be plain. And then the disciples will have to make sure that Jesus’ light shines out and isn’t hidden any longer.

To do that, we must listen. Jesus’ next parable is about baskets: the basket you use is the basket that God will use in giving to you. Those who listen to Jesus in faith will keep receiving more and more. Those who listen superficially get little and will eventually lose all the blessings they do have.


In the next two parables, Jesus talks to the crowd about seed again. A sower (probably Jesus) scatters seed and while he sleeps and rises the seed does, too, growing up mysteriously “by itself” until the harvest.

The kingdom doesn’t come all at once. Israel herself isn’t ready for harvest. But seed is being planted and is growing up. Jesus will sleep and rise and so will His followers before the harvest comes. But it’s coming!

Jesus then invites the crowd to join Him in adopting the right image of the kingdom: “To what shall we liken the kingdom of God?” The proper image is this: the kingdom is like a tiny mustard seed thrown on the ground and then growing into a huge bush that gives shade to birds.

The last half of that image is a familiar description of world empires and emperors (Dan. 4:10ff.; Ezek. 17:1-10, 22-24), but the first part was shocking. The kingdom would start as a tiny seed thrown on the ground. It would start, that is, with Jesus, like David hiding from Saul, and then dying. But from that seed comes a kingdom that gives shelter to the world.

The parables demand a choice. Only those inside hear the explanation and only those who submit to the king come inside. But all who measure with big baskets receive the kingdom and grow into a rich harvest.

Posted by John Barach @ 9:45 am | Discuss (0)
June 2, 2005

“Cares of This Age” (Mark 4:19)

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In Mark 4:19, Jesus identifies the thorns that can choke the seed as “the concerns of this age, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things.” That first phrase is often translated “the cares of this world” (e.g,. NKJV), and is then understood to refer to various earthly concerns.

And it’s true that our various concerns as we live in this world can become thorns that choke the word. A passion for sports can keep you out of church on Sunday. Love for a family member can prompt you to leave the church when that ungodly family member is put under church discipline. Work can take over your life so that your big concern is getting ahead and not serving the Lord.

All of those things are true and I believe they are valid applications of Jesus’ warning in Mark 4. But I wonder if those things are the primary things Jesus has in mind. Jesus doesn’t speak here about the concerns of “earthly life” but of the cares or concerns of “this age.”

I suspect that phrase refers to the age of the Old Covenant. Old Covenant concerns can become a thorn that chokes the word, that keeps Jesus’ message from bearing fruit.

What are some of those Old Covenant concerns?

The land, for one. Israel is now back in the Promised Land and is passionately concerned about the land. But following Jesus will lead to a situation in which the land doesn’t matter anymore. Jesus even tells a rich man to sell his possessions, which, I suspect, would include the land that had been in his family for centuries. But in the New Covenant there would be no “Holy Land,” no inherited lots which had to remain in the family. And those who wanted to cling to the land — and especially those who resented the Roman presence in Israel as a threat to their Old Covenant inheritance — could allow that concern to keep them from following Jesus. The good news that the kingdom is here sounds great until one realizes that it doesn’t mean the elimination of the Roman threat and the restoration of your piece of turf.

The temple is another Old Covenant concern. In the Old Covenant, it was a valid concern. But zeal for the temple could lead to rejection of Jesus. If Jesus is seen as a threat to the temple, then away with Jesus! Concern for the temple can be a thorn that chokes the word.

In fact, all of the riches that Israel was enjoying in the Promised Land at this particular time could be thorns. If Israel began to believe that those riches were a sign that God was blessing her and that therefore she had no need to repent, then those riches become “deceitful.” They are misleading people, keeping them from doing what God wants them to do. Those who listen to the lies these riches tell let them choke the word.

What about “desires for other things”? I’m not sure. Perhaps it could refer to the desires for the things that the Gentiles have. Perhaps it’s just a more general phrase, to indicate that Jesus’ warning doesn’t concern only the “cares of this age” or “the deceitfulness of riches,” but encompasses any of our desires for things other than the word. Thus, it would lead to the ordinary applications mentioned above: Jesus and His Word must take precedence over all the other concerns of our lives.

Posted by John Barach @ 12:25 pm | Discuss (0)
June 1, 2005

Non-Static Soil (Mark 4)

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In his lectures on the theology of Mark’s Gospel, Jeff Meyers points out that the parable of the soils does not indicate that a person can be only one sort of soil his whole life long. Rather, you can be one sort of soil at one time and another at another.

The evidence is found in the text of Mark’s Gospel. As I mentioned in my sermon notes a couple of days ago, Peter has been receiving Jesus’ word but when Jesus begins to talk about His suffering and death Peter suddenly acts as if he’s the path. The word doesn’t sink in. Satan snatches it away. In fact, Jesus even refers to Peter as “Satan,” perhaps because Peter, like Satan, is trying to snatch the seed away from others as well.

Or consider what happens with all the disciples in the end. Though they all received Jesus’ word gladly in many ways, when persecution arose — when Jesus was arrested and they all feared for their lives — they all abandoned Jesus. Jesus knew they would. In Mark 14:27, He said to them, “All of you will be made to stumble because of me this night.” That word “stumble” is the same word Jesus uses when He explains the parable in Mark 4: those who are rocky soil “stumble” when persecution arises (4:17). That’s what all the disciples did, which implies that at this point all the disciples were behaving as rocky soil.

But Jesus then restored His disciples (though not Judas, whose growth was choked out by the thorns in his life, 4:18-19) so that they bore fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred. And every believer can be confident that, even though he falls in various ways and responds sometimes as a wrong sort of soil, God will make him and preserve him as good soil so that he bears a rich crop for God.

But because the parable is not describing four unchangeable situations, four static soils, but rather describes four responses of which we, as believers, are still capable, it ought to warn all of us to receive the word properly, to keep responding in faith, to hang on to the word, to be good soil so that we do bear fruit.

Posted by John Barach @ 12:21 pm | Discuss (0)
May 31, 2005


Category: Bible - NT - Mark :: Link :: Print

In Mark 3, Jesus heals a man with a withered hand. In doing so, as Austin Farrer points out, Jesus is doing the second half of the sign in 1 Kings 13. There, when King Jeroboam of Israel threatens the prophet who has rebuked him for his false worship, Jeroboam’s hand withers. When Jeroboam asks the prophet to pray to Yahweh, his hand is restored.

Given that withered hands aren’t common in Scripture and given that the only other withered hand we hear about in Scripture is Jeroboam’s, it seems that the presence of this man in a synagogue may be a sign that there’s something wrong with the synagogues. The synagogues too need to “repent and believe the good news” Jesus preaches (1:14-15) and until they do they are dangerously similar to Jeroboam’s calf-worship.

But when Jesus comes to the man with the withered hand, He heals him. When the rulers of the synagogue, the scribes and Pharisees, attack him they are like Jeroboam. But when people trust Him, Jesus responds with restoration.

But then, as Farrer points out, near the end of Jesus’ ministry, Jesus comes to a fig tree, finds no fruit on it, and curses it so that it withers — the same word used in Mark 3. Israel has not repented and believed the good news. And now Jesus performs the first half of the sign from 1 Kings 13, though instead of withering the hands of all the “Jeroboams” who oppose Him, Jesus withers the fig tree which represents Israel.

So far Farrar, and I think he’s right.

Last week, I was working on Mark 4, where Jesus tells the parable of the seed and the four sorts of soil. In that parable, Jesus says that the seed sown on the rocky soil springs up immediately but doesn’t put down good roots, so that when the sun rises, the plant withers. It seems to me that there may be a connection here with the theme of withering in the previous chapter, the theme picked up again when the fig tree withers.

Israel appears to receive the word with gladness. Many people are delighted to think that Jesus could be the Messiah, that God’s kingdom was coming in and through Him. But their joy in Jesus will be short-lived. When persecution arises on account of the word — specifically, when Jesus is arrested and crucified — once-enthusiastic Israel withers.

It seems to me that there’s something here, but I probably need to think some more about it.

Posted by John Barach @ 12:11 pm | Discuss (0)
May 30, 2005

Sea and Land Again (Mark 4:1)

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Back in March, I Interacted with something from R. T. France’s commentary on Mark. While discussing Jesus’ parable of the soils (Mark 4:1-20), he includes a footnote interacting with Mary Ann Tolbert’s observation that Jesus tells the parable while He is on the sea and the crowds are on the land. Jesus is not Himself on the soil. The audience is, and Jesus compares them to soil. They are on the soil and they are soil.

France doesn’t buy it, but it is attractive, given that the same word is used throughout to refer both to where the crowd is standing and to where the seed lands in the parable. In my earlier comments, I said I liked his suggestion.

On the other hand, we should also remember that Jesus’ audience is not limited to the people on the land. They aren’t the only ones who are soil. So are the disciples and other followers of Jesus who are with Him in boats on the water. So maybe Tolbert’s suggestion does break down. Still, it’s worth thinking about.

Posted by John Barach @ 11:55 am | Discuss (0)
May 29, 2005

Mark 4:1-20 Sermon Notes

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Mark 4:1-20
(May 29, 2005 Sermon Notes)

Jesus didn’t always use parables. He began to only when opposition arose (Mark 2-3). Now, in Mark 4, Jesus not only uses parables; He also discusses why He uses them. He uses them because of their effect on those who hear them. And the first parable is all about hearing.

WHY PARABLES? (4:1-12)

Jesus teaches by the sea again and a crowd gathers. This time, however, the crowd came so close to crushing Him (3:9) that Jesus got into the boat. They don’t want to listen; they crowd Him to be healed.

Jesus responds by distancing Himself physically (in the boat) and in His manner of teaching (parables). In the Bible, parables are not illustrations to make things clear. They are “dark sayings,” designed to hide things from those outside. Parables go hand in hand with judgment (e.g., Jud. 9:7-20; 2 Sam. 12:1ff.; Ps. 78:2ff.; Ezek. 17:2ff.; 24:3ff.)

Jesus no longer speaks plainly to the crowd; instead He uses parables. When His disciples ask about the parable, Jesus distinguishes insiders (those with Him) from outsiders (see also 3:31-35).

God has graciously given the insiders the knowledge of the mystery of God’s kingdom: They don’t know everything, but they know it’s coming in and through Jesus. But — as in Isaiah 6, which Jesus quotes — the outsiders get everything (including Jesus’ actions) in parables as a form of judgment to leave them blind and deaf under God’s wrath, the wrath they deserve because they trusted their own wisdom instead of following Jesus.

We are insiders, members of Christ’s church. With the disciples, we receive Jesus’ explanation. Indeed, we receive more than the disciples. In the light of the gospel, Jesus’ parables don’t just conceal; they reveal.


Before Jesus explains the parable, He rebukes His followers. God has granted them knowledge of the mystery of His kingdom and they should be able to use that knowledge to figure out the parable. If they can’t figure it out, if they don’t learn the right attitude from it, they will be like the “outsiders,” unable to understand any of the parables.

But Jesus wants His followers to understand and so He provides the information we need to understand this parable. The sower is Jesus (who “goes out” [1:38; 2:13, 17] to preach “the word” [1:45; 2:2; 4:33; 8:32]), but some people are as hard as the path through the field. The word doesn’t sink in and Satan takes it away. But the fault is their own: If they had been good soil, Satan wouldn’t have been able to snatch the seed away.

Others are rocky soil and what grows doesn’t put down roots. When the sun beats down on them — that is, when persecution comes — they wither. Others let the concerns of “this age” (the Old Covenant era) — their allegiance to temple, land, etc. — become thorns that choke the word. Today, too, other concerns (work, sports, family) may keep us from hearing Christ’s word fruitfully.

This parable isn’t a warning to unbelievers only. Peter acts like the hard path, rejecting Jesus’ word, and Jesus calls him “Satan” (8:32-33). The disciples are rocky soil: when persecution comes because of Jesus’ word, they stumble (14:27). It is not as if a person is only one of these soils throughout his life. Each of us may be one or more of these bad soils at various times.

But the sower’s mission will not fail. The seed will fall in good soil and bear an abundant harvest. But to bear that harvest, we need to make sure Jesus’ word sinks into us, sets down deep roots, and grows unhampered by thorns. If we have ears to hear, we must hear. And when we hear the word and receive it we will bear fruit to God’s glory.

Posted by John Barach @ 9:44 am | Discuss (0)
May 28, 2005

Mark 3:19b-35 Sermon Notes

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Mark 3:19b-35
(February 20, 2005, Sermon Notes)

In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus follows a pattern: He goes to the sea, calls men to follow Him, and then eats with them — and around that time there is an attack. Here, an attack by the scribes is sandwiched between two parts of the story of an attack from Jesus’ relatives.


Normally, Jesus calls men and eats with them. This time, He can’t eat because He is serving the crowds. Jesus’ relatives hear about it and think He is insane. David acted insane to escape from a Gentile king; then he protected his parents. Jesus, the new David, isn’t insane, but His own relatives think He is and they come to take Him into protective custody.

The scribes from Jerusalem have a different explanation: Jesus isn’t insane; He is possessed by Beelzebul. He is casting out demons by the power of the ruler of the demons. They come to protect Israel from this demonic seducer who is leading them astray (Deut. 13).

Jesus responds by showing the foolishness of their charge: If Satan is at war with himself, his kingdom would collapse and he wouldn’t be strong. But Satan is still the strong one. So how can Jesus do what He is doing?

Jesus answer: As Israel plundered the Egyptians at the Exodus (Ex. 12:35-36), as Yahweh promised to take away the captives of the mighty (Isa. 49:25), Jesus is plundering the strong one’s house. Israel has become Satan’s house, but Jesus is setting his captives free.

He can do that because He is the stronger one and He has already bound the strong man. As Israel defeated the Philistines because David defeated Goliath, so Jesus can cast out demons because He has already overcome their ruler, Satan, in the wilderness (Mark 1:13).

Jesus then warns His hearers not to speak against the Holy Spirit. The Son’s ministry will be followed by the Spirit’s ministry through the disciples (Mark 1:8; see Luke 12:9-12). If they reject the Son now, they can still repent and be forgiven. But if they speak against the Spirit after Pentecost, God’s patience will run out and judgment will fall on Israel, Jerusalem, and the Temple from which the scribes come. The application is clear: Repent the first time you’re warned (see Prov. 29:1).


Now Jesus’ family arrives. They stand outside and call Jesus. But Jesus responds in a shocking way. He acts as if they aren’t His family. His relatives are those around Him, those who do God’s will and follow Jesus.

There are insiders and outsiders. If you don’t follow Jesus, you’re left outside, even if you’re His physical mother. If you do follow Jesus, you’re inside, a part of His family, no matter what sins you’ve committed or what your background is. We are Jesus’ brothers and sisters because Jesus’ Father is our Father. Don’t just claim to be His family; act like it.

Posted by John Barach @ 12:45 pm | Discuss (0)

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