Jesus said, "Come Follow Me."
Discipleship in Mark's Gospel
Jesus said, "Come Follow Me."
Discipleship in Mark's Gospel
The time has come … the kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news! (Mark 1:15).
God had been promising the coming of his Kingdom throughout the Old Testament. God’s people would once again live under his blessing. They would be led by God’s King – who would bring justice to the whole world. The ‘Good News’ that God had come to save and rule his people would be announced one day in the future (Isaiah 40:9-11). Israel was waiting and longing for that day.
When Jesus came, he proclaimed the day was about to arrive. The Kingdom was finally near. So God’s people needed to prepare. They needed to trust the message that God would come to save and rule his people – to ‘believe the Good News’. And they needed to ‘repent’ – to turn from sin and start afresh as God’s people under the loving rule of the King who would be revealed.
As Mark’s Gospel continues, we will discover that Jesus himself is the King of the Kingdom – he is God come to save and rule his people. He would save his people by his death on the cross – taking the punishment for their sins in their place. He would rise from the dead to rule his people as their King. The Kingdom has now come: it has been inaugurated. And we who trust in Jesus are citizens of his Kingdom.
But there is another sense in which the Kingdom is still to come. When Jesus returns he will consummate the Kingdom in all its glory. He will judge the world and save his people. He will rule all the nations and every knee will bow to him.
We still need to prepare for this coming of the Kingdom. And so the message of repentance and faith is for us and our friends as well. Jesus is God who came to save and rule his people. So people all over the world need to believe the Good News of Jesus’ death and resurrection, turn from sin, and start afresh as his people under his loving rule.
Article by the Very Reverend Dr Andrew Cheah, Dean of St Mary’s Cathedral, Kuala Lumpur.
Read Mark 5:25-30
"Who touched my clothes?" (Mark 5:30)
Touch is such a special member of the five senses, together with taste, sight, hearing and smell. But touch/feel is sometimes overlooked despite the fact that we know its importance in everyday life in the genuine hand-shake, hug or kiss. A slap on the back can convey more than words do of congratulations or approval; a carer’s or a doctor’s gentle, soothing touch round a wound or a pain can bring the hope of healing; lovers know the almost electrical exchange of oneness when hands intertwine.
Touch is special. At its best it conveys warmth, understanding and love. Of course it can be the opposite when touch is vicious, degrading or hurtful; but in the story in Mark it is about healing and wholeness. And it is costly! Costly for Jesus because he realised ‘that power had gone out from him’. Costly for the woman because her illness had been humiliating, it labelled her as unclean and thus cut off from worship of God and the fellowship of her friends. So it was very costly for her to brave the crowds, and even to come from behind with that determination to fulfil her aim, ‘If I just touch his clothes, I will be clean.’ (Mark 5:19) She was healed that very moment. But there was a further costly action involved. When Jesus turned to see who had touched his clothing, she knew it was her and she fell at his feet, trembling and fearful, and told him the whole truth. The crowd must have stopped around this incident and those nearest to Jesus must have heard the story of her destitution, then of turning to seek out Jesus in faith and action which brought this amazing gift of healing. Then another costly demand was to tell that story to others.
Her story can be our story, of coming to faith and knowing what it means to touch and be touched by Jesus and then the necessity to share that Good News with others, and that last part is especially important.
An elderly lady who I knew fell all the way down her stairs. She was badly bruised, shaken and some bones were broken. No one really dared to hope for her full recovery. But she put her faith in God and prayed deeply for Christ’s healing-presence to touch her wounds and to be in the pain. Others joined in her prayers. One by one the damaged places got better. It took time but her faith held firm and she never gave up praying. Healing does not always come in this life however hard we pray, but there is still that amazing gift of knowing the redeeming touch of Jesus, whatever the outcome. “Open our eyes Lord we want to see Jesus. To reach out and touch him, and say that we love Him.”
Written by M. Haskins and quoted in the Christmas broadcast 1939 by George VI when the country faced the uncertainty of war: ‘I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year, “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.” And he replied, “Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”’
Verse of a hymn by Fred Kaan. ‘As at communion, shape your hands; into a waiting cradle; the gift of Christ receive, revere; united round the table.’
Lord Jesus Christ, we bring to your healing love today all who especially need our prayers. May your healing touch bring them closer to you and restore them to health of body, mind and spirit which is your will. We ask this in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Article by the Rev Ann Bucknall, one of the pioneer lecturers of Seminari Theoloji Malaysia. She now resides in Lichfield, England.
Read Mark 5:1-20
Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord
has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.
Miracles alone do not tell the full story. In fact they can lead to very wrong conclusions if not explained. A case in point is the passage from which the above words of Jesus were taken (Mark 5:1-20).
In this passage, we are told that Jesus had just healed a well-known and much feared demonized man. He had in him legions of demons. And these demons when cast out by Jesus, were sent into a herd of two thousand pigs which subsequently drowned themselves.
What is the point here? Maybe it is to tell us that even these unclean pigs could not bear these unclean spirits, how much less the man! However the whole event from the perspective of the people of that place, was seen as a bane rather than a boon. Jesus, rather than being understood as a deliver was misunderstood as a disaster. Ironically even Jesus can do nothing for the faith of the people of this place, notwithstanding his power over evil! Thus when this man wanted to follow Jesus, Jesus lovingly tells him to go back to his people. For the first time he rejected an earnest follower! Yet for an important reason, for this man is the best person to help his people to know Jesus, to explain the miracle.
Once he was bound but now freed; once lost but now recovered; once naked but now dressed. In person, in flesh, he is to testify the value of his one soul and the hence the value of all souls which is over above the value of the pigs. If Jesus can show him mercy so can he also show his mercy to all! There is nothing like a living and a speaking testimony.
The point is not the miracle. The point is the mercy and the one who is showing mercy. Are people more amazed by miracles or by how much Jesus has done for you?
Is the greatest miracle that people see in your life the grace and mercy Jesus shown has to you?
Think of the people that you can reach because of who you are, where you are and what you have experienced from Jesus. Live out your new life before them and point them to Jesus.
Lord Jesus, thank you for being interested in me and not passing me by. Even though I was unclean and was bound in my sin. Thank you for clothing me with your righteousness and setting me free from all bondages of sin. Help me to bear witness to those who cannot understand your miracle of love and need someone to testify and explain it to them. Use me for this purpose.
Article by the Rev William Chee, Vicar of Yishun Christian Church Anglican, Diocese of Singapore.
A Good Soil
Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, sixty, some a hundred times what was sown. (Mark 4:20)
Read Mark 4: 13-20
A parable is a story to illustrate a spiritual or moral truth. This parable of the sower describes the different sorts of people who come into contact with the gospel: the casual, the shallow, the worldly and responsive.
While the seeds are the same, the type of soils are different. The point is made here that there will be antagonism from the evil one and from the world. There will be tribulations and persecutions, and the worries and pleasures of this life could wither a seed from growing. The sower, whether he be Jesus in the first instance or a disciple later, can be assured that, although some of his seeds were wasted, there will still be an abundant harvest that produce a hundred, sixty or thirty times more! Although the seeds are the same, it was the different types of soils that made the difference. Therefore, cultivating one’s life to be good soil that is responsive to the gospel or the word of God is essential.
There are three criteria in a good soil: soft, sticky and spongy.
First, a good soil has to be soft enough to allow the root to grow into it easily. Likewise, a believer is to cultivate a soft heart that is responsive to the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
Secondly, a good soil must be sticky enough to hold the root firmly for the plant to grow. Similarly, a believer must persevere enough to hold firmly and to obey the word of God in his life. The word of God is a lamp unto his feet and a light unto his path. (Psalm 119:105)
Finally, a good soil must be spongy enough to store nutrient and water to nurture the plant. The soil must not easily drained away. Likewise, a believer is to hear, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest the word of God until they become part of his life.
A man’s reception of God’s Word is determined by the condition of his heart. That's why Jesus, finishing the interpretation of the parable said, ‘take heed how you hear’ (Luke 8:18). It is not only that one hears the Word, but it is also how one hears it, for many may hear the Word but only those that hear it and keep it in a good and honest heart will be fruitful. (Source: The Journal of Biblical Accuracy)
Editor: When you read the Word of God, take delight in it. Ask yourself these three questions: (1) What is God saying in this passage? (2) What is God saying to my heart? (3) How does God want me to respond to his word? Jesus said, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching.” (John 14:23) The reading God’s word is a good start; but hearkening to his word is even better! Obedience is necessary.
Lord God, every seed that you have planted in the past, every seed that you are planting in the present, and every seed that you plant in the future will bear fruit in my life for the benefit of others and to your glory. Perhaps with my effort, I could make the thirty-fold harvest but I pray that by your grace you will supernaturally – above all that I can ask, think, imagine or dream about – bring me to that place of the hundred-fold blessing. In Jesus Name, Amen!
Article by the Venerable Dr. Stephen Soe, Archdeacon of Upper North Archdeaconry and Vicar of St Paul’s Church, Penang.
Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother (Mark 3:34).
The primordial will of God for humankind can be seen in Genesis 1:26 when God said, “Let us make man in our image”. This was his purpose for creating human beings at the beginning of time and this will remain his purpose for human beings in the end of time. Out of love God created men and women so that in them God’s image can be realized.
In short, God’s will for you and I is that in our life on earth (to be continued in the hereafter) that image of God can be realized. When God’s image can be seen in our life, God will be glorified. One big problem for humankind is to find a perfect model of that image of God to look up to and to imitate. In Jesus Christ, God-becoming-man, we now can see this perfect image of God in a human person. Jesus said, “He who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). In his life and example, in his attitudes, words and deeds, Jesus showed us what God has originally intended for Adam when he created him. Jesus also showed us that in this sinful world it is still possible to live and realize that image of God in a human life.
Jesus’ primary mission in coming to Earth, therefore, is to help restore that image of God in every human person and thus repair the broken relationship with God caused by the marring of that image. Salvation is all about the restoration of the image of God in the person so that one day he or she may become like Christ. Christlikeness is the goal of the Christian life. Through his example, through his teaching and more importantly through his Holy Spirit, Jesus is helping to restore God’s image in our life.
When we cooperate with God and allow his Holy Spirit to help us to become like Jesus, then we are doing the will of God. This is what sanctification is all about. Paul says, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thessalonians 4:3a). Just as Jesus was doing his Father’s will, so when we do God’s will in cooperating with and allowing the Holy Spirit to transform us, we are in the same boat, as it were, with Jesus. We are ‘his brother and sister and mother’ and likewise it is incumbent upon us to also help and encourage our fellow brothers and sisters to realize that image of God in their lives.
How far have I gone in my Christian life towards achieving Christlikeness?
Jesus said, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me” (John 4:34). Such was his passion for doing the Father’s will. May we have that same passion in embracing God’s will in our life.
Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Thou art the Potter, I am the clay.
Mould me and make me after Thy will,
While I am waiting, yielded and still. Amen.
(Song: ‘Have Thine Own Way’ - Lyrics: Adelaide A. Pollard, 1907.)
Article by the Right Reverend Aeries Jingan, Assistant Bishop, Diocese of Kuching.
The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.
Due to their need for food, the disciples picked up ears of corn in a field to eat. The Pharisees claimed that what they did was unlawful on the Sabbath. Jesus’ response was a correction to their gross misinterpretation. What the Pharisees had done was to turn God’s law into a burden rather than a blessing. Their interpretation would only bring suffering on the Sabbath rather than relief which was the original intention of God. Jesus asserted that humans were made first and then the Sabbath was made afterwards. God did not make the Sabbath and then humans to serve this day. Humanity needs the Sabbath physically, because we need to rest (Exodus 20:8-11) and above that, we need the Sabbath even more spiritually (Deuteronomy 5:15) to recognize the fact that we have been redeemed (cf. Mark 3:4.)
Jesus then reminded the Pharisees about an incident in the Old Testament when David and his companions were hungry and in need during the days of Abiathar the high priest. David entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. He also gave some to his companions. For this reason Jesus explained why it was not unlawful for them to pluck ears of corn from the field on the Sabbath. Jesus then makes a bold claim in Mark 2:28, “So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” In doing so, he is declaring that he had the authority to declare that picking corn for sustenance and need were lawful, because he is Lord of the Sabbath Day, meaning it is his day. Exodus 20:8-11 states that the seventh day is a ‘Sabbath of the Lord your God.’ Hence Jesus decides how the Commandment should be obeyed and not the Pharisees.
Such an understanding of the Sabbath is still relevant to us today even though some will argue that this “law” is already obsolete. We miss the point if we understand the Sabbath the way the Pharisees did. It’s about a blessing not a burden, about saving a life and meeting needs. But more importantly, it points to the future rest (Hebrews 4:1-11) This rest is entered by faith in Christ (Hebrews 4:2.) The Sabbath points toward our final salvation, and this salvation is in Christ. It is in Christ that we find the rest that we need (Matthew 11:28-30). The requirement for rest has been transformed to focus on Christ rather than a day of the week. If we have faith in him, we are entering God’s rest and we are therefore keeping the spiritual intent of the Sabbath.
Look at Hebrews 4:6 comparing it with Mark 2:27-28.
“If you don't take a Sabbath, something is wrong. You're doing too much, you're being too much in charge. You've got to quit, one day a week, and just watch what God is doing when you're not doing anything.” (Eugene H. Peterson)
Lord, to our packed-full planners, we bid, "Peace!"
To our over-caffeinated consciences, we say, "Cease!"
o our suffocating selves, Lord grant release. Amen.
(Adapted from “Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals” by Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove)
Article by the Right Reverend Dr Jason Selvaraj, Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of West Malaysia. Bishop Jason is also the Vicar of Christ Church, Malacca.
Go show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing as a testimony to them. (Mark 1:44)