Mark 6:53-56 Jesus: a popular healer

Devotional—Mark 6:53–56 Jesus: a popular healer

 

When Jesus and the Twelve got to the west northwestern side of the Sea of Galilee, they moored at Gennesaret. We are not able to find any trace of this village today, and all we know is that the area is beautiful and fertile.

As soon as they disembarked from the boat, the people recognized who they were and began going through the neighborhoods and villages gathering the sick and bringing them to Jesus. Anywhere he traveled, the sick were brought to him. The people believed that they would be made healthy if only they touched the tassels on his robe. The tassels, which were twisted wool and placed at the four corners of his robe, were reminders that Jesus observed the Law of Moses.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, help us to believe in your promises, that you are always with us and that you care about us. We may not be cured like the people who were in your presence that day, but you still care about us and are with us. Amen.

Note: This is part of a 300 page daily devotional which is available on amazon.com.  Ebook: $3.95 and paperback $11.66.

 

 

 

Mark 6:45-52 Jesus Walks on Water

Devotional—Mark 6:45–52 Jesus Walks on Water

 

After having fed the masses, Jesus forced his disciples to sail to Bethsaida ahead of him. While they began sailing, Jesus let the crowd return home. After they had gone, Jesus went into the hills for privacy and prayer. Without him aboard the boat, the crowd did not follow it, which allowed the Twelve to have time alone. Imagine how much they and Jesus needed rest. For Jesus, prayer meant being nurtured by his Father in heaven.

After a long time, when the sun had set, Jesus was finally alone. The Twelve had been sailing for several hours and were rowing straight into a powerful wind. They were exhausted and not getting very far. This was a time of testing for the Twelve. The wind was showing them what their character was.

At about four in the morning, Jesus came walking on the water. His intention was to walk by them, but they did see him and screamed. Jesus appeared to be a ghost, and these brave adult men were terrified. They believed the figure was a ghost because they knew that humans do not walk on water.

Immediately Jesus assured them that it was he, a human. “Be of good courage, men. ‘I am I’” is the phrase he used, which in Greek means that he emphatically assured them that it was he, their master and teacher. “It is not a ghost. It is I: Jesus of Nazareth.” Then he encouraged them again: “Do not be afraid.”

In our period of history, we [CS1] tend not to fear God or ghosts or any unexplained phenomenon. This attitude leads us to consider Jesus to be a friend, and we have difficulty believing that he is the LORD Jesus Christ. The Twelve were terrified. Not one of them suggested that the figure was their Master. Every one of them was convinced they had seen a real live ghost.

In spite of our bewilderment and inability to understand the things of God, Jesus still comes to us with the same message: “Friends, it is okay. Do not be afraid. I am with you—always with you—even to the end of the world.”

At that time, Jesus stepped into the boat, and the wind ceased. It wore itself out. The Twelve were again speechless. The Greek text says that they had been driven out of their minds. It may have dawned on them, either at the time or in the future, that at that moment they were like the demoniac at Gerasa.

Mark writes that they were not able to understand what had happened because they did not comprehend the feeding of the five thousand people with virtually no food. These words make it clear that Jesus multiplied the small amount of food that was found. An interpretation of the feeding of the crowd has been offered that suggests that Jesus’s acceptance of the five loaves and two fish inspired the rest of the people to share the little that they had brought along. The way Mark describes the situation, it is clear that he meant that Jesus multiplied the loaves and fish. The argument for this interpretation is that Jesus was in the beginning and was involved in creating the universe. He, being that powerful, could walk on the water that he himself created.

The Twelve cannot be criticized for not understanding all of these happenings. Imagine the struggle they had when their Master had been raised from the dead. Nothing like this had ever been done before. The message to us is that we need not fear anything in this life, not even death. A friend recently said: “Not even death is fatal.”

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for giving us the assurance that even when we are afraid and not able to understand, that you, the Risen Lord and Savior, are with us. Amen.

Note: The 300 page daily devotional, The Inside of the Cup, is available at amazon.com.  The ebook is $3.95 and the paperback is $11.66.


 [CS1]Note the comma use here for an introductory phrase.

Mark 6:30-44 Feeding the Five Thousand

 

Devotional—Mark 6: 30–44 Feeding the five thousand

 

The Twelve apostles returned to Jesus in Capernaum. Immediately they reported to Jesus their experiences of teaching and healing. There must have been excitement along with satisfaction. Jesus had given authority to heal and to teach, and they apparently had success on their journeys.

When they came and reported, it was almost like Jesus had not listened to them. He said: “Come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest awhile.” It was a busy time for them. People were coming and going so much that Jesus and the Twelve had no time to relax and talk. It was like a little earlier when the people pressed Jesus so hard that he broke down. This time was the same in that they were so busy with the people that they did not even have time to eat.

They stepped into the boat once again and sailed to what they hoped was a lonely place. The sailboat was approximately twenty feet in length, so for thirteen men to be on board, it was somewhat crowded. As they were sailing not far from land, the followers could see them and ran down the path alongside the sea. So when they landed, there was a very large crowd waiting for them. Mark estimates five thousand men. That is the way people were counted in that day. In early America people were also counted if they were males who owned land. They were the only people who were able to vote. So as far as the crowd waiting for Jesus and the Twelve, it might have been around twenty thousand including the women and children.

How Jesus was able to teach such a large group is hard to imagine. In ancient Greece, even in the acoustically sound arenas, it was figured that only the front portion was able to hear. So when they voted on an issue, only a minority could hear what the vote was about. Despite the size of the crowd, Jesus had compassion on them because “they were like sheep without a shepherd.”

When the sun was getting low, the Twelve came to Jesus and asked him to conclude his work and send the crowd away. As Mark said about sheep without a shepherd, the people must have simply followed Jesus and forgot about how long they would be gone and their possible need for food. Many of them were accustomed to sleeping under the stars, so the problem was how to feed such a large group. The Twelve basically didn’t care about the crowd. If the crowd had to go without a meal, that was no great concern for them. In spite of this, they were concerned about how they could feed them, and they were practical. There is no way they would be able to feed twenty thousand people. So the only solution for them was to have Jesus send the crowd away.

Jesus’s compassion extended to taking care of these “children.” Jesus ordered his apostles to feed the crowd, and that left them bewildered. Surely Jesus would realize they would have a difficult time obeying him. Apparently they had enough money to feed the crowd in their treasury because they reminded Jesus that to feed a crowd this size would take two hundred denarii, that is, over half a year’s wages.

Capernaum, Bethsaida, and Chorazin were the only villages nearby. The largest of them was Capernaum, which had a population of fifteen hundred. And there were no bakeries in any of the three villages that could come up with that many loaves of bread.

It seems that the practicality of the apostles overwhelmed their compassion. “Please, Master, send them away.” These men had grown up to take over their fathers’ businesses, so they did have the knowledge of their limitations to cope with this problem.

What amazes me is that they had just returned from missions in which Jesus had given them the power to heal. The men apparently made no transfer of that lesson to the current situation. They were like the crowd that acted like sheep without a shepherd.

Two hundred denarii would be the equivalent of over twenty thousand dollars today. It is obvious they had considered the various options available to them as responsible citizens and failed to see any solutions. In light of this, Jesus ordered them to gather up all the food they were able to, and all they could collect was five loaves of bread and two fish.

Jesus issued another order to organize the crowd into groups of fifty and of one hundred. It was like they were going to have a huge banquet with feasting. Mark takes the time to specify that the grass on which they would be sitting was green, so the ground would be somewhat soft.

Imagine the massive area these groups must have covered. On average there would have been seventy-five groups of fifty to one hundred men and women reclining in preparation to eat. In those days, people reclined when they ate a meal. They did not sit at a table like we do.

When everyone was settled, Jesus took what he had: five loaves and two fish, looked up to heaven, gave thanks, and blessed the food. He then broke the food into pieces and passed it to the twelve in order to distribute to the groups. When every person had eaten, he/she was full and satisfied just like he/she had eaten at a formal banquet.

After every person was satisfied, the remaining food was gathered, and there were still twelve baskets full of bread and fish, which was more than what they began with. What happened? Was it magic? Was it God creating as he did in Genesis: “Let there be light, and there was light.” Did Jesus’s compassion inspire the kindness and generosity of the people, so they all shared the little that they had for themselves? Who knows? The general point is that Jesus had compassion on the crowd. He realized that they were like wandering souls in the wilderness, and he had compassion on them and loved them.

Jesus has the same compassion for all of us. He knows that we are at times rootless and drifting, and all we need is someone to listen to us and have compassion on us. Jesus has been there. He knows what it means to be alive in this occasionally confusing world. Jesus is with us. That is the source of strength we need in order to continue walking through our lives, regardless of how long we live and regardless of what part of our lives we are in. God is with us and does have compassion on us.

Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, thank you for your compassionate presence in our lives. Amen.

Note: copies of the 300 page daily devotional are available on amazon.com.  Ebook is $3.95 and the paperback is $11.66.

Mark 6:14-29 Who is Jesus?

Devotional—Mark 6:14–29 Who is Jesus?

 

Who is Jesus?

Jesus has sent the Twelve apostles out to minister to the Jews in Galilee. They began healing in the same way Jesus had. Jesus had become so popular that King Herod was receiving reports of his ministry and that of the Twelve.

Herod reasoned that Jesus is powerful because he is John the baptizer who has been resurrected. The Pharisees did believe in the resurrection of the body whereas the Sadducees did not.

Other people guessed that Jesus was Elijah of one of the great prophets of old. To be compared to Elijah was quite an honor. Malachi, another prophet, prophesied that Elijah would come again, and that coming would bring in the long awaited Messiah. So Jesus was being recognized as more than just another healer or teacher.

King Herod Antipas was the governor of Galilee and a neighboring state: Perea. It was he who had had John beheaded. His daughter, Herodias, had danced for him and his guests at his birthday party. The guests were the leading citizens of Galilee, the political and military leaders. Herod was so pleased with Herodias’s dancing that he made the outlandish promise that he would give her a gift of appreciation of anything she asked for, up to half of his kingdom. Was he intoxicated or so sensually moved by her dancing that he would make such a bizarre promise? Her mother, the queen, who was also named Herodias, must have been irate that her husband would act this way. Mark does not tell us whether the girl was his daughter or step-daughter.

Herodias, the mother, was controlled by her hatred of John, who publicly rejected, criticized, and taunted her and Herod. When her daughter asked what she should ask for, Herodias answered: “The head of John the baptizer. His head on a platter.”

King Herod was horrified. He liked John. He admired his morality and quality of life. He also feared John because of his popularity. But he had openly promised this girl anything, up to half his kingdom, and now he had to deliver.

When John’s disciples heard of the execution, they went to the prison and got John’s headless body and placed it in a tomb. It disturbs me that Mark is so matter-of-fact in writing this. There is no mention of mourning or a funeral. Simply that John’s body was retrieved and placed in a tomb.

But Mark is creating the atmosphere around Jesus’s ministry. The story about John describes the strong emotion behind Herod’s earlier statement that he believed Jesus was the baptizer come back to life. This statement was not casual. There was intense guilt Herod was experiencing. I would think there was anger at his wife for insisting that John be executed because she must have known that Herod liked and admired John, so much so that he protected John and kept him safe. I would also guess that Herod must have feared that John’s return to life could mean the end of him and his rule.

Nevertheless, Jesus and his apostles were creating quite a positive impression with their teaching and healing, so that even the king was wondering who he was, wondering and possibly even hoping that he was in fact the Messiah.

Finally, it can be asked if John’s execution was a prophecy of what was going to happen to Jesus.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, keep us asking who John was, as well as who Jesus of Nazareth was. When we are settled on the answer, then we are open to his coming into our lives and healing and teaching us. Amen.

Note: The Inside of the Cup, a 300 page daily devotional, is available on amazon.com.  Ebook for $3.95 and paperback for $11.66.

Mark 6:7-13 Jesus commissions the Twelve

Devotional—Mark 6: 7–13 Jesus commissions the Twelve

 

Jesus has been rejected by his family and friends in Nazareth. The thirteen of them continued teaching throughout the villages between Nazareth and Capernaum, a distance of sixteen miles as the crow flies, so by road and path probably around thirty miles.

At that time Jesus began to send the twelve men out in pairs: two by two. This is reminiscent of God commanding Noah after the flood to send the animals out two by two to begin a new creation.

Two is a comforting number. It’s nonthreatening to the people as they are approached, and the two are able to offer support to one another as they go out into the unknown doing something for the first time.

Jesus sends them out, but first of all he gives them the power to heal the sick and the weak. It is in the sending that the Twelve missionaries grew their trust in Jesus. As we will see later, they are quite excited when they return.

Jesus ordered the men to take only a few provisions with them on their journey. A staff was required to help support them as they walked. It could also be used to protect them against the wild animals and thieves when they were out in the country. Beside the staff they were to wear sandals and only one tunic, which was a long shirt extending down to their mid-thigh.

The men could bring along no bread, no carrying bag, and no money. Jesus was making them be like Moses and the people of the Exodus. In their forty-year journey from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land, the people were given enough food for only one day. On Friday they were given a double portion because they were not permitted to work on the Sabbath Day, which went from sundown on Friday and extended to sundown on Saturday. The Twelve were bringing the Galileans out of a type of slavery into the freedom of life under Christ.

The apostles were being forced to place their trust in God as they ventured about. They depended on the goodness of people for housing and food. In that day there were not many inns: definitely no restaurants and motels. If anyone rejected them in their presentation of the Gospel, they were to “shake the dust off of their sandals” as they left. It was a form of saying that this family or village had had the opportunity to hear the good news but chose to reject it. “Shaking the dust off of their sandals” as they left meant they were separating themselves from this family or group.

This reaction seems to be harsh. For many of the listeners, this was their first time to hear the good news. I offer no defense for this behavior that Jesus suggested. How many times have I needed to hear the good news of Jesus Christ in order to continue to trust in his promises? I would think that Jesus could have been more lenient.

But what did their rejection of the good news involve? Was it a mere “No,” or was it a stoning of the pairs of men as they went out teaching and healing? After all, they were committing blasphemy by saying that a man from Nazareth was the awaited Messiah!

So the Twelve apostles split into pairs and went out. My heart is filled with anxiety simply by writing these words. I cannot imagine how frightened these men must have been. Not long before this, they were plying their trades, skills they had learned by apprenticing under their fathers since they were ten years old. By now they had grown past the apprenticeship and were masters of their trades. In following Jesus and going on this journey, they were leaving all of their security behind them. They were also leaving their families and friends, plus Jesus was telling them to go out with no support other than trusting God would take care of them.

The apostles were successful. They did heal people as they ventured throughout Galilee. The sick and weak, the hopeless and poor, were helped and healed.

 

We are also called to leave our comfort zones and go into our little worlds in order to help and heal those people who are in need. In our day we are able to do that without leaving our occupations and homes. We are able to return to our beds each night, and we do not have to worry about having food to eat. People in our worlds need encouragement more than anything. Just to realize that they are not alone in their suffering, to know that someone cares about them, is most often all that is needed.

When we consider our own neighbors, how many of them do we really know? How often do we stop and ask about their families or their work? Can we be a little more curious about our friends? At times I recognize a look of discomfort on the face of someone I am talking with. Would it be so difficult to say: “You look distressed. Are you all right?”

To live that way does take us out of our comfort zones. The person may tell us to mind our own business, but more likely they will be relieved that someone cares enough to ask.

The Twelve went out two by two. Possibly when we are with a friend and see another person standing alone, we could walk over and greet him/her. It is a simple action, but it does require us to go out just like the Twelve did. That is what it means “to love your neighbor in the same way Jesus loves you.”

Prayer: Give us the courage, Lord, to extend ourselves and possibly to do nothing more than listen. That one act has the power to overcome loneliness and to offer encouragement to others. Amen.

Note: The Inside of the Cup, a 300 page daily devotional is available at amazon.com.  ebook: $3.95 and paperback: $11.66.

Mark 6:1-6 Jesus rejected in Nazareth

Devotional—Mark 6:1–6 Jesus rejected in Nazareth

 

After healing Jairus’s daughter, Jesus led his twelve disciples to his hometown: Nazareth. Jesus had lived and worked there for nearly thirty years. So, the man was well known in this small community.

On the Sabbath Day, Jesus was given permission or invited to teach at worship by the leader of the synagogue, a man like Jairus. Jesus’s friends and family were astounded by his knowledge and his powerful presentation. They began asking each other: “Where and how did he become so wise and powerful?”

Then they began to reason with each other: “Isn’t this Josepth’s son who is also a carpenter? And isn’t he the brother of James, Judas, and Simon and also brother to his sisters?” With that they took offense at him. This in itself is a premonition of how Jesus will be ultimately treated by his countrymen.

Jesus confronted the problem head-on. This is remarkable, and it describes his entire ministry. He taught, healed, and dealt with everyone in the open. In contrast his enemies planned their strategies in secret. They were also concerned with how the public would react to their plans.

Jesus stated a theory that was quite realistic: “Prophets seem to be respected everywhere but among the people they know best: their families, the villages they live in, etc.” Familiarity breeds suspicion and, in this case, led to Jesus being rejected. He marveled at how they would not accept him and his message.

Having grown up in the church, I have had similar problems with this Jesus of Nazareth. Having been shown pictures of the Bible at home and in Sunday School made the characters familiar. As I continued my education, the familiarity made me feel I could with impunity put Christ on the defensive. I dared question his authority, and I treated him as an equal.

I was similarly amazed with Jesus’s treatment by his family and friends when he did not defend himself. Even when I questioned his divinity, he listened, treated me with respect, and did not threaten me for being so bold.

My dialogue contained listening. His words have been created, so I was inspired to learn more about him in the context of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Testament. These words both comforted me with new knowledge. But I was also disturbed by some of the things that were said.

The point is: along with my questions and Jesus’s acceptance was a growing knowledge of both Christ and the world, including myself. What bothers me are people who are sure they know all of the answers and refuse to continue listening to God by reading his Word. So often it seems the agnostics and atheists know the Bible better than the rest of us Christians. They are serious about issues of faith, and read the Scriptures. Often the motivation is to put God to the test as much as possible. When they make a decision or realize that no decision can be made, they have at least attempted to understand.

The key to listening is to develop curiosity. What is important here is to get some help from the professional clergy as to where to look. The problem is that many of the pastors do not know the entire Bible well enough to help us in our search. Many of us are Biblical illiterates.

Jesus was initially rejected by his family, the Nazarenes, the Galileans, and ultimately the entirety of Judaism. Yet Jesus was victorious. Of course, there are many who do not believe Jesus to be God, but the battle for our lives was fought and won on the cross.

Prayer: Lord, we are grateful you do not reject us when we openly reject you. May we learn to listen to you by reading your Word. Amen.

Mark 5:35-43 Do not fear, only believe.

Devotional—Mark 5:35–43 “Do not fear, only believe.”

 

Jesus was still speaking to the woman when messengers came from Jairus’s house and announced: “You daughter is dead. Don’t bother the Teacher anymore.” A fact is stated. The situation is beyond help. There was a belief that Jesus could possibly help as long as the girl was alive. But now that she was dead, it was obvious to everyone that the time had been wasted while healing the hemorrhaging woman. “Tell the Teacher to go home; it is too late for your daughter. She is dead.”

This situation was very sad because the girl was only twelve years old. She had a lifetime in front of her. The girl was just getting into her childbearing years and would be married relatively soon. But now her future had been taken from her.

In spite of the report, Jesus said, “Fear not; only believe.” I have cherished those words for nearly half a century. That simple sentence has given me the courage throughout good times as well as when I have been in the depths of depression. When there is no visible hope, Jesus comes to me, to all of us, with “Fear not; only believe.” Only trust in his promises.

When my father was on his deathbed, he was challenged by one of his friends: “Harold, do you know where you will be going when you die?” Dad answered: “Yes. I will be going to heaven.” The man was upset: “How do you know that?” “Jesus promised it, and I believe in his promises.” In spite of the horrific pain of having cancer throughout his body, he lived with the knowledge that not even cancer-driven death could separate him from God and his love.

When Jesus had reassured those present, he took Jairus and his wife along with the three disciples and went to Jairus’s house. When they arrived, there were family, friends, and professional mourners present, and they were making a loud noise with their weeping and wailing. There was no doubt the girl was dead. The professional mourners were experts at knowing the presence of death. In those days and up to the nineteenth century, the method of determining death was placing a mirror under the nose of the dying person. If there was no condensation, they realized the person had died.

So when Jesus asked them the reason for their mourning, and he assured them that she was not dead but only sleeping, they openly laughed at him. How foolish he must have been to not accept their analysis of the situation.

Jesus took the parents and three disciples and went into the house where the girl lay. Jesus leaned over her, took her by the hand, and said in Aramaic, which was the language spoken throughout the region: “Talitha cumi,” which means: “Little girl, arise.” To the amazement of the others, the girl stood up and began walking around. They were stunned. No one had ever done this before. This was the first resurrection.

In spite of the magnificence of the event, Jesus gave the others specific instructions: “Do not tell anyone of this!” He wanted people to be converted not because he was a miracle worker, but because they recognized the compassion of their God present in him.

Obviously, we all face death: the death of loved ones as well as our own. In this experience we learn that not even death is powerful enough to rob us of Life, that nothing and no one has the power to separate us from God’s love. Jesus continues to tell us in all situations: “Fear not; only believe.” We live in the comfort of knowing that God is always with us, even at the end of our lives and at the end of time.

It is no secret that life is filled with problems. Being born is ugly. Experiencing the discomfort of hunger and messy diapers as well as the insecurities of growing up and then growing old is at times painful. Throughout all of our lives, God is with us, assuring us that we need not fear but only trust in his presence and promises.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we are grateful for you promises and continued presence. Amen.

Note: My book, The Inside of the Cup, is available on amazon.com.  The ebook is $3.99 and the paperback is $11.66.  It is a 300 page daily devotional.

Mark 5:24b-34 A woman who suffers from hemorrhaging interupts

 

Devotional—Mark 5:24b–34  A woman who suffers from hemorrhaging interrupts

 

No sooner had Jesus begun to go with Jairus to his home than a large crowd gathered and followed. Apparently the crowd was jostling him in attempts to get closer. His popularity had increased to the point the people became self-centered in their desire to be near this miracle-worker.

The woman had been menstruating for twelve long years. She was desperate. I checked with an RN at our local clinic about how this woman must have felt. She suggested the woman would have been very weak for those years. She would have been extremely frustrated and quite depressed. Pain and desperation had ruled her life for such a long period of time, and she had spent every cent she had on the medical treatments that were available and had received no positive results.

When this person had heard of the healings of Jesus, she got enough strength, probably from a rush of adrenalin, to push her way through the jostling of the crowd. When she reached Jesus, she stretched out and touched his cloak. She reasoned: “If he has healed so many people, then I will be healed if I but touch his garment.” Did she feel unworthy to personally face the Teacher, or was her faith that great that she inwardly knew that all she needed was to touch his clothing? As soon as she touched his cloak, her menstruating stopped, and she could feel her body being healed.

Jesus also felt a change in his body. As soon as she touched his garment, power left his body. Immediately he turned and scanned the crowd to see who had touched him. He asked his disciples: “Who touched my clothes?” They were totally confused. “Many people have been touching you. How can you expect us to know which one you are referring to?”

The woman was now filled with guilt, like she had been caught doing something inappropriate. She came to Jesus. She was so frightened that she fell on her knees in front of him and confessed that it was she.

Jesus responded with the loving of words. He said: “Daughter.” He did not call her “Woman” as Mark had described her, but he treated her like a family member. “Daughter, your faith, your amazing trust in me, has healed you.”

This response forces me to ask how much I trust Jesus, in spite of knowing that he is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. We have grown up in a culture that worships independence. Our parents were proud of us when we learned to walk and when we were potty-trained. Our achievements were applauded, and there is nothing wrong with that.

But in contrast, were we endeared as growing children when we simply needed nurturing or when we wanted to be ourselves with no performance involved? Did we need to be doing something all of the time? I remember sitting on a hillside with my son when he was a younger teenager. It turned out for both of us as we thought back on the incident that it was a very meaningful and fulfilling experience. Just doing nothing and being together had a profound effect on us. The sad thing is that these moments are rare.

Jesus called the suffering woman “Daughter” rather than “Woman.” What a gift! To be part of his family. To belong to him in a loving relationship. This is what we are in the church, which is God’s body on earth. We are not “Man” and “Woman,” but “Son” and Daughter.” We belong, and that is simply the primary need of every person. With Jesus’s blessing, the daughter was able to return home in peace and health.

Will we ever have that same experience? Will Christ heal us in the same way? That is the ideal for us in the church and for those who long to be part of Christ’s body. It is necessary for us who are the body of Christ to treat others the same way he treats us, as members of the family of God. We also need to sustain each other in the same way. That is what gives us the strength to go out and treat others as family. What a gift we are giving to the world, and in reality we are giving to ourselves!

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for making all of us your children. Amen.

Note: a copy of my book, The Inside of the Cup, is available at amazon.com.  Ebook – $3.95 or  paperback – $11.66

Mark 5:21-24a Jairus begs Jesus for help

Devotional—Mark 5:21–24a  Jairus begs Jesus for help

 

Jesus was quickly becoming popular. He has chosen twelve disciples to train for a continued ministry, and now he is returning to Capernaum, which is his home base.

Mark writes that a great crowd met Jesus and the Twelve on the beach. So there is a lot of anticipation and excitement upon his return to the northwest side of the sea. If nothing else, Jesus is adding something extra to their humdrum lives of working from dawn to dusk.

As soon as Jesus is on shore, a notable man comes jostling through the crowd until he reaches the teacher from Nazareth. Jairus is respected both in Capernaum and in the synagogue. We can assume that he is fairly well dressed and neat. Yet when he reaches Jesus, he falls on his knees in front of him. Kneeling is a demonstration of respect only for God. The Jews were hated by foreign conquerors because of this fact. They would not bow or kneel before the generals or rulers. The book of Esther is about this issue. Esther’s uncle Mordecai would not kneel when the important prince Haman passed by in the street. When his retinue went down the street, everyone bowed, but Mordecai stood out as the only person who would not bow to Haman.

In the case of Jairus, he had no concern about decorum. He literally fell to his knees in front of Jesus. Jairus’s daughter was dying, and for some reason he realized his only hope of saving her life was found in Jesus.

Jairus had heard Jesus teach in the Capernaum synagogue. Part of his responsibility as a leader of the synagogue was to assign teachers for each Sabbath worship. Also, he was responsible for critiquing the teachers. Apparently, he too felt that Jesus taught with authority, otherwise he would not be approaching Jesus for help. All of this plus the healing must have had an effect on Jairus.

When his daughter became ill to the point of death, he left all of his dignity behind and rushed toward Jesus. News of his return to Capernaum preceded him, and Jairus did not doubt Jesus’s ability to heal his daughter as long as she was alive.

The most beautiful part of this story is this response: “So he went with him.” Jesus did not insist on a discussion of Jairus’s worth, nor did he negotiate any anticipated response to Jairus’s action. He simply went along with Jairus. He saw the desperation in the father’s face, and he acted accordingly.

This is the same way Jesus treats us. He doesn’t ask us for our credentials. He simply goes with us and ministers to us. We all live in a prison of our DNA and the environment in which we grew up. Sometimes we are born with illnesses that cannot be reversed. At times like this, Jesus sits with us, listens to us, and fills us with courage. With Christ’s friendship we are able to tolerate any problem.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of your Son’s presence. Amen.

Note: My book, The Inside of the Cup, a 300 page daily devotional, is available at amazon.com.  The ebook is $3.95 and the paperback is $11.66.

Mark 5:14-20 Jesus is asked to leave!

Devotional—Mark 5:14–20 Jesus is asked to leave!

 

I asked an expert at the University of Iowa how many herdsmen it would take to care for a herd this size: two thousand pigs. He said that it would take forty herdsmen to do the job. So St. Mark wrote that these forty men went in every direction telling the people in the city and rural area what had happened to the demoniac. These forty men were the first proclaimers of the good news of Jesus in the Decapolis: the ten Roman cities on the east side of the Sea of Galilee.

People who heard their reports rushed to the cemetery where the found the demoniac healed and in his right mind. He was sitting and relaxing and was fully dressed. This sight caused the people to react in fear. The uncontrollable and incurable demoniac was normal, and the two thousand pigs were in the sea. The fear, awe, and threat of a person of such power being in their presence caused them to beg Jesus to leave their country. There is a lot of begging going on. The demoniac begs for mercy. The evil spirits beg to be sent into the pigs. Now the people are begging Jesus to depart because of their fright. Soon the healed demoniac will beg to join Jesus and his group of disciples.

Fear typically has two reactions: fight or flight. The herdsmen were afraid and in awe of the Jesus of Nazareth, and they ran throughout the area reporting what had happened. Now the people who ran to the cemetery begged Jesus to leave them alone. Of course, their lives were boring. They had to work from dawn to dusk in order to maintain their livelihood. Yet this awesome one was all right as a momentary distraction and only that. They had dropped everything in order to see the miracle Jesus performed on the demoniac, but they were too uncomfortable with this new life that had been given to someone they knew.

Another problem was the huge expense the healing had cost the farmer who owned the pigs. In today’s dollars, each pig would have been worth $506. Two thousand pigs would have been worth more than a million dollars, and that was enough reason to have Jesus leave. Life may be boring, but this kind of action was too costly. Not only had the farmer lost a huge investment, but the herdsmen had lost their jobs and resultant income. The demoniac had to be brought back into society, and that was frightening. Mental illness bothers us even today. It is an unknown quantity. We have images from throughout the ages of mentally ill people acting in bizarre ways, and those images remain powerful. I only have depression, yet people are hesitant around me, especially those people who do not know me.

As Jesus was stepping into the medium-sized fishing boat, the healed demoniac begged—more begging—to allow him to join Jesus and his disciples. He was grateful and possibly wanted to express his gratitude in serving others. He was more than likely insecure in his new life and wanted to be near the one who had restored his health as a source of security.

But Jesus said: “No.” Rather than have the man go to a foreign country where he would have been held suspect because he was an alien, Jesus called the man to minister to his friends. He told the man: “Simply tell them what the Lord has done for you.” Now we have another statement that can be interpreted in two ways. This is like the Son of God/Son of man phrases. Jesus referred to himself only as Son of man. Kyrios in Greek can be interpreted as “lord,” a powerful person, or a “Lord,” God himself. In Greek kyrios is not capitalized, so either translation is legitimate.

 

Jesus’s interaction with us is not normally as dramatic as it was with the demoniac. Most of us have grown up in the Church or have associated with it for a longer period of time. We are living in a state of sanctification, that is, a time of gradual transformation. As children we believe what our parents and the Church tells us about God. When our brains develop, which they do until our early twenties, we begin to question a lot of things. We challenge authority along with abstract ideas such as God, eternal life, and so forth.

It is daily contact with God in public and private worship, along with studying God’s Word, which causes the gradual transformation into a faith that is real. There is nothing so wonderful as a question. Curiosity is a great gift that God gives to us. He knows our brains will cause us to question and to wonder, but it is through this open questioning and doubting that faith becomes more and more alive. Ultimately we return to the faith of our childhood, but then it is our faith that is amazing.

When it comes to our dealing with God, we are all beggars just like in this story. We too come to God begging for healing, for answers and reassurance, for peace and relief from the worries of each day. Jesus told us not to worry about tomorrow because there are enough problems today for us to deal with. God initiates the interchange by responding to us with his loving presence. It is this love that is the transforming agent in our lives, and all we are able to do is to respond with gratitude. We express our gratitude in worship and in helping others. Every person—each one of us—is constantly in need of a loving presence. The demands of each day are overwhelming. As parents we have jobs that have their own demands. Our marriages need tending, and our children need our attention. Our parents are growing older, and they need our help. Plus our congregations and societies need volunteers in order to carry out programs that again help people live out their lives.

So our prayer is no more than: Thank you, Lord, for breaking through walls which fear has built and restoring us. It is you and you alone who enables us to relax and be at peace. Thank you. Amen.

Note: my book, The Inside of the Cup, is a 300 page daily devotional and is available at amazon.com.  The ebook is $3.95 and the paperback is $11.66.