San Antonio, Texas
Current Study: Gospel of Mark
Topic: Mankind Frightened by the Presence or Works of God (Mark 5:1-20)
In this passage many of the residents of the region of Gerasa came to see what had happened after the Lord Jesus Christ had cast a legion of demons out of a man and into a herd of swine. Verse 15 tells us that they became frightened when they saw the formerly demon-possessed man “sitting, clothed, and sane.” No doubt the site of about 2,000 swine floating in the Sea of Galilee contributed to the fear.
The Scriptures abound with examples of mankind being frightened, uncomfortable, and/or running from the presence of God. This begins in the Garden of Eden, wherein after Adam & Eve sinned, they “hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden” (Gn 3:8). And it culminates with the Great White Throne Judgment: “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them” (Rev 20:11). It seems likely that earth and heaven here represent the entirety of the unrepentant inhabitants thereof, who desire to flee from the presence of God, but finally (and possibly for the first time) have nowhere to run to, and must finally face the consequences of having spurned God (and especially His Son). Truly “it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb 10:31).
On one occasion when the Apostle Paul was “discussing righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come” with the Roman Governor Felix (Marcus Antonius Felix), the Governor “became frightened and said, ‘Go away for the present, and when I find time I will summon you’” (Acts 24:25).
The discomfort that mankind feels in the presence of God is most evident when one injects the name of Jesus Christ into conversation. Men may talk about God, but inject Christ into the dialogue, and discomfort is almost inevitable. Yes, Jesus Christ is the very presence of God Himself: “And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature…” (Heb 1:3).
Topic: Parable of the Sower; the Seed Sown Among the Thorns (Mk 4: 7, 18-19)
It is this particular category of individual that is representative of too many Christians in the day in which we live. They can offer no fruitful service to God because they are mastered by the details of life. These details can come in two forms: worrisome circumstances and pleasant circumstances. Either way they distract the believer from being a useful servant because he or she is consumed by worry or pleasure, and almost always has his or her eyes on earthly concerns rather than heavenly ones.
Topic: The Opposition of Family (Mk 3:20-21, 31-35)
Oftentimes family can and does come between a Christian and God. There are many misguided Christians who even believe that attentiveness to the family is the highest form of godliness. The Lord Himself demonstrates in this passage that family can—even with the best of intentions—hinder one’s service to God; in this case, Jesus’ own family is ignorantly working to hinder His messianic ministry! He clearly repudiates their efforts and instead identifies as His family those men and women who are following Him as disciples.
Topic: The Working of Faith and the Obstruction of Crowds (Mark 2:4-5)
Mark 2:5 says that Jesus “saw the faith” of the men who dug through a roof and lowered their paralytic friend down to Him in order for their friend to be healed. Scripture teaches us that where faith exists, works are the consequence: “faith without works is dead” (Js 2:26); “faith works through love” (Gal 5:6). Faith does not let barriers, hindrances, or adversities get in the way. These four men could not get to Jesus because of a large crowd. They, therefore, chose the extraordinary course of taking a staircase up to the sod roof of the home and digging through it to lower their friend down to Jesus. Works do not precede faith, but rather are the consequence or manifestation of faith.
The fact that a crowd prevented these men from gaining access to the Lord is a typical representation of crowds in Scripture, i.e. they typically are barriers to God and often hostile or apathetic to God. James Edwards writes the following of crowds:
Mark never describes crowds turning to Jesus in repentance and belief, as the gospel requires (1:15). With respect to understanding and faith, crowds generally demonstrate passivity, and given their precipitous reduction following Jesus’ teaching on suffering at Caesarea Philippi, they demonstrate even greater fickleness. The single most common attribute of crowds in Mark is that they obstruct access to Jesus. Thus, despite Jesus’ popularity, crowds are not a measure of success in Mark. They constitute “outsiders” who stand either in ambivalence or opposition to Jesus. , “The Gospel According to Mark, PNTC, p. 74.”
Topic: Cost of Following the Lord Jesus Christ (Mark 1:16-20)
When the Lord Jesus Christ called to Peter and Andrew to follow Him, it is said that they left behind their fishing nets and followed Him (v. 18). When He immediately thereafter called James and John to follow Him, it is said that they left behind their father and followed the Lord (v. 20). In one case the emphasis is on career, and in the other on the family. It should not be surprising to the believer if the Lord also calls him or her to give something significant up in order to follow Him. We certainly understand the need to separate from sin or sinful companions in order to walk with the Lord; but it is also true that we may have to give up something good or neutral in order to follow Him. Careers and/or families might hinder the believer’s walk with the Lord; especially if one and/or the other becomes too much of a priority. It seems likely that had the Lord Jesus Christ remained longer on earth with the disciples, that they would not have awakened and grown up spiritually in the same way that they did after He departed from them. They truly had to learn to walk by faith and not by sight after He departed from them. The Lord Jesus Himself said that it was to the disciples’ advantage that He depart from them, because then they would be ministered to by the Holy Spirit (Jn 16:7).
Topic: Impenetrable Barrier Between God and Man (Mark 1:10)
After being baptized by John at the Jordan River, the Lord Jesus Christ saw the heavens opened and the Spirit descending to Him. This reminds us that only God can traverse the infinite distance now existing between God and man. Just as space (the heavens) represents an impenetrable barrier between God and man, so did the Veil in the Temple. Of course in the spiritual realm we might liken the respective barriers of space and the Veil to the impenetrable barrier that sin has erected. The only way for man to reach God is through Christ, who paid the penalty for sin, thus opening the way for man to approach and fellowship with God—this was symbolically represented by the tearing of the Temple Veil when Christ died (Lk 23:45). Although fellowship with God can only be reestablished through faith in the work of Christ on the cross, mankind rejects this approach, and instead relies upon intellect and works. This ultimately futile endeavor might be illustrated by means of mankind’s obsession with crossing the impenetrable barrier of space; whether to see into or penetrate thru this veil to either prove or—preferably—to disprove the existence of God.
After the rending of the heavens, the Spirit descended, and then God spoke (v. 11). Just as the Lord Jesus Christ has made reconciliation with God possible, so the Holy Spirit makes communication with God possible. This is essential in prayer, but in the context of this Mark passage, it is communication—the Word—from God to man that is under consideration. Furthermore, while prayer is necessary, it is more important for us to hear what God says than for God to hear what we say. The sequence of first the Spirit and second the Word must happen for divine communication to be understood by man. Apart from the ministry of the Holy Spirit, the Word of God cannot be understood. To the ear of unregenerate men who are devoid of the Spirit and/or resistant to His ministry, divine communication will be incomprehensible—whether perceived as thunder or the voice of angels (Jn 12:28-29).
San Antonio Bible Church. Teaching the Word of God by exposition of Scriptures using isogogics, categories and exegesis. A Bible Doctrine Church.