I hope your enjoying your second run through the Gospel of Jesus. Let’s see what lies within our reading today…
Experts at setting aside the commandments of God — Mark 7:9
These religious leaders with all of their training in the Law and the the Traditions were the lawyers of their day — men trained to find and exploit loopholes, trained to parse words to make the pieces fit the way they wanted, experts in find ways around God’s will. Now there’s an interesting and twisted sort of expertise. We dislike and distrust modern lawyers for such expertise. And yet it’s one that many of us show considerable aptitude for — justification, rationalization, creative theology, whatever you’d like to call it. Human beings, when they want to do something that they know they shouldn’t will explore every loophole, parse every word, find any excuse, shift every blame, generate every conceivable hypothetical situation, and leave no stone unturned to set aside the commandments of God. Jesus criticizes these religious leaders and class what they’re doing what it really is — setting aside the commands of God; and the criticism applies to us as well as them, when we try to paint our sins in such a way as to make them technically OK. God sees through every attempt of ours to “play lawyer”. Why not use the energy we expend to dodge God’s will for simply obeying it?
Short memories — Mark 8:4
When the multitudes needed to be fed in a desolate (desert) place, the apostles were initially dumbfounded by Jesus’ command that they feed them. “Where will anyone be able to find enough bread here in this desolate place to satisfy these people?” But it’s not like God had never fed lots of people in the desert before! It’s not even like Jesus had never fed thousands of people before with relatively nothing. Our memories are regrettably quite short. We don’t remember how many times God has provided for us in our lives, we don’t count our blessings often enough. When my son was young (2 or 3 years old), my wife and I decided to have a night to ourselves and we took our son to stay with some older friends that he considered to be something like grandparents. He was a little upset that we were leaving him overnight with our friends, struggling with classic separation anxiety that is part of the age, and as my wife and I left he told our friends, “Well, I’ll never see them again.” Of course we were coming back, we’d left him with babysitters before and always come back; but in the throes of the emotions, he thought we were abandoning him. And sometimes we wonder. if God has abandoned us; despite the fact that He’s always provided for us before. We all suffer from shorten memories, and that’s why we need weekly church assembly, weekly celebration of the Lord’s Supper, weekly encouragement, and Ebenezers (1 Samuel 7:12 — markers in our lives to remind of God’s provisions).
“Get behind Me Satan” — Mark 8:33
You’ll probably remember this quote from Matthew. I thought I’d comment on it here rather than when in Matthew, because there was just so much to talk about in those chapters. Contextually, Peter has just made the “Good Confession”, and Jesus had blessed Peter for it; but now that they were on the way down the mountain Jesus wanted to share something that was heavy on His heart and something that they needed to know and be prepared for: Jesus’ death and resurrection. Peter, who had just confessed that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God, couldn’t begin to grasp that such a thing could happen to the Messiah; and he rebukes Jesus for saying such things! On the one hand, I’m sure a forceful outburst of concern for Jesus’ safety and life was appreciated by Jesus; but on the other hand, it was the very thing that the human side of Jesus wanted to avoid. Jesus responds quickly and aggressively to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” Have you ever noticed that sometimes the good intentions of others are great temptations to do the wrong things, feeding right into the things that we want to do, but shouldn’t?
- “You’ve worked so hard this week, why don’t you sleep in on Sunday?”
- “You’ve been so stressed lately, you deserve to let your hair down a little.”
- “Well, if that woman would say something like that to you, you just shouldn’t darken the door of that church again.”
- “You’ve worked for that company for years, they can spare you a few office supplies.”
Notice again what Jesus’ response was: 1) He recognized the real source of the suggestion, 2) He responded quickly and decisively (there was no “thinking it over”), 3) He reminded Himself and everyone present that our first interest should be the God’s.
Rid yourself of the impurity of jealousy — Mark 9:30-50
After coming down from the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus was interrupted in telling His closest disciples about His death and resurrection by an urgent request for healing. In their continued travels Jesus appears to have picked up where He had previously left off and continued talking about His future death and resurrection. Sadly, his disciples weren’t getting it (9:32), presumably because they were jealously arguing about position (9:33-35). The discussion had apparently come from an incident in which the disciples had discovered a man exorcising demons in Jesus’ name and had jealously forbade him to do so anymore — he wasn’t part of their troupe. Jesus addresses the problem by telling them that a) they shouldn’t have forbad this man from doing good in His name (they may have caused him to stumble — 9:40-42) and b) they needed to purify themselves from their dearly held jealously of position. And it’s this last matter that is the target of what He is saying in vvs. 43-49 about being cast into Hell. This jealousy of theirs about position — as dear to them as their right hand or foot or eye — could be the very thing that could land them in Hell! So, purify (the idea of salt and fire, in vvs. 49,50) yourselves! If they would purge the jealousy and competition for position, they could find “peace with one another”, but as long as they continued to vie for place and authority in the Kingdom they’d find division among themselves and spiritual danger for their souls.
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.