The Gospel of Mark 4-6: The Kingdom of God and the Disciples of Christ

First page of the Gospel of Mark, by Sargis Pi...
First page of the Gospel of Mark, by Sargis Pitsak, a Medieval Armenian scribe and miniaturist (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Yesterday, I started a weeklong series of Bible studies through the Gospel of Mark.  Yesterday we started our study by looking at how Jesus is presented in Mark chapter 1-3.  This morning, I would like to continue our study by asking you to read Mark chapter 4-6 in your Bibles.  In today’s study we will see how Jesus 1.) Taught about the Kingdom of God through Parables, 2.) Displayed His authority over nature through miracles and 3.) Sent out His disciples to carry out His mission.

As you read through this study, I have included some questions in italics for your to think about.  After you have finished reading through and thinking about this study I would like for you to share something you learned about Jesus in the comments section.  Finally, I would urge you to share these posts with your friends and family members through Facebook or Twitter.

 

1. The Parable of the Sower (4:1-25)

 

Jesus often used parables when He taught His disciples.  A parable is an earthly story with a spiritual meaning or application.  Usually parables have one main point Jesus is trying to drive across.  In this passage, we see one of the most important parables that Jesus taught. We often refer to this as the parable of the sower or soils.

 

There are four types of soil in this passage: hard, stony, thorny, and good.  Jesus shows how each of the first three soils fails to produce a harvest.  In the next set of verses, Jesus’ disciples come and ask Him about the meaning of the parables. In verses 13-20, Jesus explains it to them.  In verse 14, Jesus says that the seed is the Word.  In other words, the seed represents the message of the gospel. In the verses that follow, He begins to explain what each of the four represent.

 

This parable is about the different ways people respond to the message of the gospel.  Some hear the word but immediately reject it and turn away from the truth.  The truth never penetrates their hearts and Satan comes and immediately steals the truth from them.  In Jesus day, this group was best represented by the religious leaders of the day: scribes, Sadducees, and Pharisees.  These people had become so hardened in their own understanding of the Scripture that they rejected Jesus outright.  Others, represented by the seed that falls on stony and thorny ground, seem to initially receive the gospel, but later turn away when the trials and difficulties of life come their way.  These two groups represent what we might call a superficial acceptance of the gospel.  The last group, represented by the seed that falls on good ground, hears the word and accepts it, but unlike the previous two groups they endure and produce a harvest.

 

The lesson in this parable is very important, because it teaches us that the evidence of true Christianity is not how you start but how you finish.  Many people make professions of faith only to later abandon the faith when things get tough.  The evidence of a genuine Christian is that they endure by God’s strength and power to the end.

Here is helpful article dealing with seed that fell along the wayside and the rocks.

 

2. Jesus Displays His Authority Over Nature (4:35-41)

 

As in the previous miracles that we looked at yesterday, the miracle of calming the winds and the waves is

 

Jesus with his disciples on the Sea of Galilee...

 

a demonstration of Jesus’ authority over nature.  Many of the disciples were seasoned, veteran fisherman who had grown up around the Sea of Galilee and were well acquainted with its frequent storms.  The fact that they thought they were about to die (v.38), shows just how violent and dangerous this storm was.  According to v.38, Jesus was asleep during the storm and the disciples thought that He didn’t care if they died or not. 

 

If you had been in the storm with the disciples, do you think that you would have felt that Jesus  didn’t care about you? Why or Why not?

 

The most amazing thing in this story is that all Jesus had to do to stop the storm was to speak three words, “Peace, be still.”  In other words, Jesus had complete authority over the natural forces involved in this storm.  Verse 42 is ironic, because the disciples began this passage being afraid of the storm and ended it being afraid of Jesus.  When the Bible says that the disciples “feared” Jesus, we should not take this to mean that they were afraid that Jesus would harm or hurt them.   The “fear of the Lord” is a phrase that believers often use to describe our respect or reverence for God.  The point of this passage is this: when we serve Jesus we don’t have to be afraid of anything, because Jesus has complete power and authority over everything and everyone in this universe.  This truth would become very important to the disciples later, when they would face persecution because of what they believed and preached (see Acts 4:22-32).  Christians throughout the ages have remained faithful under extreme hardships, because they “fear” God more than they “fear” their circumstances or those who would persecute them.

Here is a helpful article by Danny Akin entitled “Trust the One Who Controls the Storm”

 

3. Jesus Sent Out His Disciples (6:7-13)

 

            Throughout the Gospels, we see Jesus training His disciples and preparing them to continue spreading the “good news” after He leaves to go back to heaven. In this passage, we see the first time that Jesus sent out His disciples on their own.  You will notice in v. 7, that “He called the twelve”. These are the same twelve that were designated in Mark 3:13-19.  Take time to reread Mark 6:7-13 and see if you can answer the following questions:

 

What did Jesus give the disciples power to do?

 

What were the disciples forbidden to take on the journey? Why do you think Jesus gave them this command?

 

What  were the disciples supposed to do in places where they were not welcomed?

 

By giving the disciples the power to cast out demons, Jesus was showing that they were His representatives.  In other words, the same authority that gave Jesus the power to cast out demons was not operating through His disciples.  In Acts 1:8, just before He ascended back to heaven, Jesus told His disciples that they would receive power when the Holy Spirit came upon them so that they could be His witnesses throughout the world.  This is an important doctrine for the church, because we often feel powerless to do the work that Jesus has called us to do.  The mission of the church is so big and Satan’s opposition is so fierce that we often feel intimidated.  But the Bible consistently reminds us we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to carry out the works that Jesus has called us to do.

 

Jesus told the disciples not to take any supplies with them on the journey, because He wanted them to learn to be dependent on Him.  This command was not intended to be permanent and, later on, Jesus rescinds it for the disciples (see Luke 22:35-38).  The point of the command was that Jesus would give us all that we need for the mission.  When we go out on mission, we can be certain that God will provide for all of our needs (Philippians 4:19).

 

Take a moment to share what you learned about Jesus from today’s Bible study in the comments section. 

 

 

 

 

Part 3: The Cure for Anxiety

Anxiety - Stress ... Time management vital for...
(Photo credit: marsmet481)

A couple of days ago I started a series of posts dealing with the issue of anxiety.  The response to these posts have been overwhelming and goes to show how great an issue this is in our society.  As I shared on Monday, according to Dr. Robert Leahy, “The average American child today exhibits the same level of anxiety as the average psychiatric patient did in the 1950’2.”   In the first two installments of this series we looked at how:

  • Part 1:  The Soul Corroding Acid of Anxiety – In this post we looked at how anxiety is caused by a limited worldview, a low theology, an overestimation of our own ability and underestimating God’s love.
  • Part 2: The Curse of Anxiety – In yesterday’s post we looked at how anxiety traps us in a vicious cycle that never ends up resolving the underlying problems.  It erodes our faith, causing us to trust more in our own abilities than in God’s providential care and how it isolates us from the people who love us the most— including God, our families and our fellow church members.

Today, I would like to turn our attention to the cure for anxiety.  How do we manage and overcome the issues of stress, anxiety and worry in our lives?  I would like to suggest that the Bible points us to at least three steps we can take to counter anxiety in our lives:

  1. Learn to trust God by getting to know Him better this my seem simple but the truth of the matter is that often anxiety in the life of the believer is a sign that we don’t know God as well as we should.  The better we know God the more we will understand His ways and His purposes.  But even more importantly, the more we know Him the better we will learn to trust Him.  Specifically, I would suggest that we focus on understanding His knowledge, His providence, and His ways.  We need to know that God knows what we are going through.  In Matthew 6:31-32 Jesus says, “Therefore do not be anxious saying ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all of these things, and Your Father knows that you need them all.” I underlined that last phrase because it is a key to overcoming anxiety.  God knows where you are, what you are going through and what you need.  No matter what is happening in your life right now, GOD KNOWS!  But these verses also teach us that GOD CARES.  He cares for His people by providing what they need in life.  Jesus says in Matthew 6:30, “But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you…Therefore, do not be anxious…” God knows, God Cares, and God provides.  Learn to trust Him by getting to know Him better and you will be able to overcome the issue of anxiety in your life.
  2. Make the things of God the number on priority in your life– far too often we experience anxiety simply because our priorities are out of line with God’s will and purposes.  As human beings we have a tendency to focus an inordinate amount of our attention and concern on the temporal things of this world, and not on eternity.  I have heard people say that someone is “Too heavenly minded to be any earthly good” but my experience is just the opposite.  I have served as a Pastor for nearly twenty years in three different churches and my observation is that far too many Christians are “too earthly minded to be of any heavenly good.”  If we would start setting our hearts and affections more on the things of God, I am convinced that our levels of anxiety would decrease.  That is why at the end of this passage in Matthew 6:33 Jesus says, “But seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.  Anxiety will always fill the heart of the person who is trapped in the temporal concerns of this world, but peace and contentment will come to those who “seek first the Kingdom of God.”
  3. Remember who holds tomorrow– One of the most important lessons that every believer needs to learn is that God is in control!  There is no reason to worry about the future when you know who holds the future.  So much of our anxiety is caused by a fear of the future.  I shared with you in one of the earlier posts that last month I spent several days in the Intensive care unit with issues relating to my blood pressure.  When I went into the hospital I was having stroke like symptoms — my entire left side went numb and I could not control my hand or leg.  My speech was slurred and for a moment all I could think about was “This is it!”  My older brother had a series of strokes before he died last year and I was certain that things were going to go very badly.  Honestly, while I was laying on the bed in the emergency room waiting for the ambulance to come and take me to Western Baptist Hospital in Paducah, KY all I could think about was what it might be like if I did not recover my speech and control of my left side.  I had watched my brother struggle with similar issues and suddenly my future was looking bleak.  I was very scared about what the next days, weeks, months and years would hold in store. The tests showed that this was not a stroke and that the entire problem was created by my blood pressure, which is now being controlled by medication.  But for those few days that I was in the intensive care unit, I learned first hand what anxiety about the future means.  But I also developed a deeper level of trust for the one who holds my future.  The key is this, “None of us can control our future, so we must learn to trust the one who does.”  God is in control and He holds all of our tomorrows.  The more we learn to trust Him today, the less anxiety we will have about tomorrow.

These three posts have attempted to lay out what Jesus has to say about anxiety in Matthew 6:25-34.  I am certain that there is much more that could be said about this subject and would like to invite you to share some of your thoughts and ideas in the comments section.