Monday, July 23
Scripture: Mark 9:38-50
John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. For the one who is not against us is for us. For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward. “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” (ESV)
Scripture Reading Skill: Figurative language. Scripture employs the use of figurative language. Hendricks, in Living By the Book, gives some principles for understanding figurative language.
Do you think Jesus intends people to literally cut off their feet or gouge out their eyes? No! This would violate the principle of loving one’s neighbor as oneself. If you love yourself, you’re not going to gouge out your eyes!
Jesus is employing hyperbole. Hyperbole is “exaggeration to say more than is literally meant.” In light of Jesus’ hyperbolic statements, what do you think he is trying to say? My guess is that he’s making the point to deal with sin in your life…in a serious way. Don’t tolerate it.
Tuesday, July 24
Scripture: Mark 10:1-12
And he left there and went to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan, and crowds gathered to him again. And again, as was his custom, he taught them. And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.” And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” And in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. And he said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”
Scripture Reading Skill: Historical context. In order to best understand Jesus’ teaching on divorce, one must understand the NT view of divorce as well as why Moses gave the permission for divorce. This is where a good commentary can be helpful. I recommend Christ-Centered Exposition, usually available under $10 and providing ample background. For example, Christ-Centered Exposition says this about the understanding of divorce in Jesus’ day: “There were different schools of thought in first-century Judaism about what might allow for divorce. One school of thought believed that a man could divorce his wife if she had committed any type of immodest behavior or sexual immorality (the school of Shammai.) The other school of thought (Hillel, the more dominant point of view) interpreted Deuteronomy 24 much more broadly, saying that divorce was possible whenever a wife did anything displeasing to her husband. This latter interpretation of the law basically led to men divorcing their wives for just about any reason.”
Jesus is responding to this mindset. Now reread the passage in light of your historical understanding of divorce. How do you think differently now?
Wednesday, July 25
Scripture: Mark 10:13-16
 And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them.  But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.  Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”  And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them. (ESV)
Scripture Reading Skill: Historical context. In our culture today, children are almost worshipped by their parents. At lunch today I was so distracted by a mom whose 3-year-old dominated her lunch, demanding her way and causing the mom to completely miss the time with her family and friends. In Jesus’ day children were not valued. They were considered the equivalent of dogs and women. In light of that, reread this passage. How does it change your perspective? Your view? Your understanding?
Thursday, July 26
Scripture: Mark 10:17-31
 And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.  You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’”  And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.”  And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”  Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.  And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!”  And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God!  It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”  And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?”  Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”  Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.”  Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel,  who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.  But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” (ESV)
Scripture Reading Skill: Remote context. Yes, we’re looking at this again. In order to better understand the rich young ruler, you must read what comes before and after this passage. Children are in the kingdom, the rich young ruler is out. Children who were despised and rejected are celebrated and accepted. An adult who has the potential to influence, to give significant sums, is deemed unfit for the kingdom. Jesus even uses the term, children, in explaining the rich young ruler’s plight: “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God!” (10:25) Then he foretells his death again. The kingdom is completely contrary to what the people are expecting to see and hear.
Friday, July 27
Scripture: Mark 10:32-34
And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him,  saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles.  And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.” (ESV)
Scripture Reading Skill: Look at the other 2 times Jesus predicts his death. What is going on before and after? What is the point you think he is trying to make? What does this tell you about Jesus? The people around him?