Living By the Book: July 30-August 3

Monday, July 30

Scripture: Mark 10:35-45

[35] And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” [36] And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” [37] And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” [38] Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” [39] And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, [40] but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” [41] And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. [42] And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. [43] But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, [44] and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. [45] For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (ESV)

Scripture Reading Skill: Figures of speech. Metaphors abound in Scripture. In order to understand this passage, you must know how metaphors work both in literature and in this passage. A metaphor is a “comparison in which one thing represents another.” (Hendricks)

In this passage Jesus refers to a cup and baptism. If you take these literally, Jesus is simply saying they will drink from the same cup (which they did at the Last Supper) and be baptized as he was baptized. However, this is not the intent of Jesus’ words.

In order to understand this statement, you must ask and answer some questions:

  1. What is the cup to which Jesus is referring?
  2. What is the baptism to which Jesus is referring?
  3. Where are cup and baptism used elsewhere in Scripture?

Hint: The cup is referred to as a cup of wrath ( Here, by extension the cup refers to the suffering Jesus will undergo…as does the baptism. They are metaphors.

Tuesday, July 31

Scripture: Mark 10:46:52

[46] And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. [47] And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” [48] And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” [49] And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.” [50] And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. [51] And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” [52] And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way. (ESV)

Scripture Reading Skill: Historical context. Why did Bartimaeus call Jesus “Son of David?”  So a good reliable resource is It is a theologically sound resource, dependable and reliable. Check out their understanding of this:

Now, with that in mind, what was Bartimaeus saying? What did he understand or at least think, that others did not?

Wednesday, August 1

Scripture: Mark 11:1-11

[1] Now when they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples [2] and said to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it. [3] If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.’” [4] And they went away and found a colt tied at a door outside in the street, and they untied it. [5] And some of those standing there said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” [6] And they told them what Jesus had said, and they let them go. [7] And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. [8] And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. [9] And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! [10] Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” [11] And he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. And when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve. (ESV)

Scripture Reading Skill: Geographical context. Look up a map of ancient Israel and trace Jesus’ journey. What do you learn from this? What gate would Jesus have come through? What is the significance of this gate.

Hint: Bethany was on the eastern side of Jerusalem. Jesus would have come through the eastern gate. The eastern gate shows up again in prophecy of the return of Christ.

Thursday, August 2

Scripture: Mark 11:12-19

[12] On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. [13] And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. [14] And he said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it. [15] And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. [16] And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. [17] And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” [18] And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching. [19] And when evening came they went out of the city. (ESV)

Scripture Reading Skill: Historical context. Why did people sell things in the temple? Was Jesus angry because they were selling things? Or because they were being extortioners?

“Doves were the recognized offering of the poor, required for the purification of women, the cleansing of lepers, and other purposes. The installation of stalls for the sale of animals and of other requirements for the sacrifice such as wine, oil and salt, had the effect of transforming the Court of the Gentiles into an oriental bazaar and a cattle mart. Jesus was appalled at this disregard for the sanctity of an area consecrated for the use of Gentiles who had not yet becomes full proselytes to Judaism.” (William Lane)

How does this historical background change your understanding of Jesus’ frustration. Where was Jesus’ heart in this display of anger?

Friday, August 3

Scripture: Mark 11:20-26

[20] As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. [21] And Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” [22] And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. [23] Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. [24] Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. [25] And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” (ESV)

Scripture Reading Skill: Historical Context. This brief passage is packed with historical and biblical references. Let me list them for you. (In case you’re wondering, this isn’t tucked away in my brain. I wished it was! Did some research.)

  1. The fact that the tree is withered from the roots goes back to Job, Ezekiel and Hosea and denotes total destruction. Could this be a reference to the temple where the moneychangers were thrown out?
  2. If you reference Psalm 90:6, Joel 1:12 and Hosea 9:16, could this be a reference to impending judgment?
  3. The Dead Sea is visible from the Mount of Olives where Jesus is teaching. “This mountain” could refer to the Mount of Olives that will be split in two on the last day.

“When prayer is the source of faith’s power and the means of its strength, God’s sovereignty is its only restriction.” (William Lane)

Living By the Book July 23-27

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

[13] And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. [14] 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. [15] Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” [16] 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

[17] 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?” [18] And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. [19] 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.’” [20] And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” [21] 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.” [22] Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. [23] 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!” [24] 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! [25] 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.” [26] And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” [27] Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” [28] Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” [29] 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, [30] 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. [31] 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, [33] 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. [34] 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?

What You Will Never Know

Psalm 106 is a retelling of the history of Israel. In summary, the Psalmist confesses both his sin and the sin of his fathers (vs. 6). They rebelled at the Red Sea, “yet He saved them for his name’s sake.” Once they crossed the Red Sea “they believed his words; they sang his praise.” They had to see God work and then trust Him.

However verse 13 gives the sad reality: “They soon forgot his works; they did not wait for his counsel.” Sin was followed by sin, disobedience multiplied by disobedience. Things got so bad that God was ready to kill them. “Therefore he said he would destroy them–had not Moses, his chosen one, stood in the breach before him, to turn away his wrath from destroying them.” (vs. 23)

It didn’t get any better.

“Then they despised, murmured, did not obey, yoked themselves to Baal, ate sacrifices offered to the dead.” A plague broke out among them. “Then Phinehas stood up and intervened, and the plague was stayed.” (vs. 30)

Two times they were near extinction–two times someone stood in the gap for them. Someone interceded. But it wasn’t enough. Moses and Phinehas died. Israel sinned even more.

Until Jesus. He came as the ultimate intercessor. On the cross, he stayed the wrath of God, interceding not only for Israel but for anyone who will trust Him. “For our sake, God made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

And Jesus’ work didn’t stop there. Three days later he resurrected. Then he ascended. Now he intercedes.

Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. (Romans 8:34, ESV)

Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:25, ESV)

My little children I am writing these things to you that you may not sin. But if anyone sins, we have anadvocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous. (1 John 2:1-2, ESV)

Moses’ intercession was limited to a certain event and time. Phinehas interceded and died. Jesus died to intercede! Now he lives to intercede! What you will never know is what he has intercepted in your life today. You will never know the pending danger, the looming temptation, the “almost” catastrophe that he stayed away by interceding. He saved you then and he’s saving you now–to the uttermost!

Thank God today for what you don’t know.


Living By the Book July 16-20

You may wonder why you see some of the same skills keep showing up that you’ve seen before. Repetition is key to retaining what you’ve read and learned.

Monday, July 16

Scripture: Mark 8:31-9:1

[31] And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. [32] And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. [33] But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” [34] And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. [35] For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. [36] For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? [37] For what can a man give in return for his soul? [38] For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Chapter 9 [1] And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.” (ESV)

Scripture Reading Skill: Remote context. The remote context of a passage is the Scripture passages before and after your passage, even the entire book or genre of your passage. In our case, this passage is more clearly seen in light of what precedes and what follows it.

Consider the following questions:

  1. What did Peter do in 8:27-29?
  2. In Peter’s mind, what did he conceive of Jesus as the Messiah to be? To involve? (Most likely ruling and reigning)
  3. What happened in 9:2-13? What was Peter’s reaction to Jesus then?
  4. Now read 8:31-9:1 in light of what comes before and after. What is the significance of Jesus foretelling his death and resurrection sandwiched between these two events? A helpful hint: in between Peter’s amazing declaration and Jesus’ amazing transfiguration is a prediction of his ugly, awful death. The Messiah would be murdered. The transfigured one would be disfigured. What a Savior! This ought to lead you to worship Jesus!

Tuesday, July 10

Scripture: Mark 9:2-13

[2] And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, [3] and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. [4] And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. [5] And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” [6] For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified. [7] And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” [8] And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only. [9] And as they were coming down the mountain, he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. [10] So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead might mean. [11] And they asked him, “Why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” [12] And he said to them, “Elijah does come first to restore all things. And how is it written of the Son of Man that he should suffer many things and be treated with contempt? [13] But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written of him.” (ESV)

Scripture Reading Skill: Remote context. We have to look at remote context again. Don’t read this without realizing what Jesus has just predicted.

I have to share this. We see Peter’s very incomplete understanding of Jesus. Otherwise, Peter would not have considered building a tabernacle for Jesus, Moses and Elijah. By suggesting this, Jesus was putting Peter on the same level as these great prophets. Now, consider 8:27-29. Did Peter really understand the implications of Jesus as Messiah?

Wednesday, July 11

Scripture: Mark 9:14-29

[14] And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. [15] And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him. [16] And he asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?” [17] And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. [18] And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” [19] And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” [20] And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. [21] And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. [22] And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” [23] And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” [24] Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” [25] And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” [26] And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” [27] But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. [28] And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” [29] And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.” (ESV)

Scripture Reading Skill: Remote context. Again! Jesus was just transfigured and 3 of the disciples witnessed it. Now these same disciples are unable to cast out a demon. Jesus’ answer as to how this happens is through prayer! The one to whom prayer is to be made became a “pray-er” on earth. Jesus often withdrew to pray. How much more do we need to pray!

Now consider this in light of the context. The one who can be transfigured needs communion with the father. The one who will die and be resurrected will (we know) eventually pray from the cross!

Thursday, July 12

Scripture: Mark 9:30-32

[30] They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And he did not want anyone to know, [31] for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” [32] But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him. (ESV)

Scripture Reading Skill: Remote context. Yes, I’m serious about this. The juxtaposition of events is unbelievable! Peter confesses Jesus is the Christ, Jesus foretells his death and resurrection, Jesus is transfigured, Jesus talks of the importance of prayer, Jesus then foretells his death and resurrection.

Why does Jesus continually refer to his death and resurrection? Why the repetition? Because they don’t get it! Verse 32 says, “But they did not understand.” Lest we think that Peter’s declaration that Jesus was the Messiah was rock-solid, Peter doesn’t understand. The remote context reveals a roller coaster experience between Jesus and the disciples.

Friday, July 13

Scripture: Mark 9:33-37

[33] And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” [34] But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. [35] And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” [36] And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, [37] “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.” (ESV)

Scripture Reading Skill: Remote context. Look at the last sentence in 32: But they did not understand. How can you tell from this passage that clearly they did not understand. (In light of all of Jesus’ remarkable miracles, they are trying to figure out who is the greatest!) This is unbelievable!

Living By the Book, July 9-13

Monday, July 9

Scripture: Mark 7:31-37

[31] Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. [32] And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him. [33] And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. [34] And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” [35] And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. [36] And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. [37] And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” (ESV)

Scripture Reading Skill: Things that are related. Look for cause and effect. This may sound simple, but it will give insight as to what or who caused what.

  1. What is the cause and what is the effect? Did Jesus cause the man to be healed or did they, by bringing him, cause him to be healed?
  2. In the healing of the man, what is the one word that surprises you?

I will share the one word that catches my attention: “sighed.” Why do you think Jesus sighed? Do you think Jesus reflected all the way back to creation and thought, this is never how this was meant to be? What makes Jesus sigh when he sees it in your life? What pain? What difficulty? What heartache?

Tuesday, July 10

Scripture: Mark 8:1-10

[1] In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat, he called his disciples to him and said to them, [2] “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. [3] And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away.” [4] And his disciples answered him, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?” [5] And he asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven.” [6] And he directed the crowd to sit down on the ground. And he took the seven loaves, and having given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and they set them before the crowd. [7] And they had a few small fish. And having blessed them, he said that these also should be set before them. [8] And they ate and were satisfied. And they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. [9] And there were about four thousand people. And he sent them away. [10] And immediately he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the district of Dalmanutha. (ESV)

Scripture Reading Skill: Things that are true to life. Sometimes a passage will come to life when you can relate to it? What are possible things in this passage that are true to your own life experience? Examples could include hunger, the need to feed a bunch of teenagers who have come to your house, being in a remote place where food wasn’t readily available, or organizing a large meal. Now, before you get too involved in what the passage means, reflect on how that true-to-life connection with the passage makes you feel. Once you have done that, now explore the theological significance. It’s remarkable how your own true-to-life connection makes other connections come alive.

Wednesday, July 11

Scripture: Mark 8:11-21

[11] The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him. [12] And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.” [13] And he left them, got into the boat again, and went to the other side. [14] Now they had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. [15] And he cautioned them, saying, “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” [16] And they began discussing with one another the fact that they had no bread. [17] And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? [18] Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? [19] When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.” [20] “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.” [21] And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?” (ESV)

Scripture Reading Skill: Historical context is critical here. We have already talked about it. In order to understand this conversation between Jesus and his disciples, you will have to understand leaven. Go to and look up leaven. What was its significance. I’ll also provide a bit of insight. At times the Israelites had to eat unleavened bread for certain celebrations. Just a little bit of leaven, when it goes into bread, affects the entire loaf. When Jesus said, “beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of Herod,” he was warning them not to be influence, in the smallest of ways, by the Pharisees or of Herod. The Pharisees were seeking a sign, when the destination (Jesus) was right in front of them!

Thursday, July 12

Scripture: Mark 8:22-26

[22] And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. [23] And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” [24] And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.” [25] Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. [26] And he sent him to his home, saying, “Do not even enter the village.” (ESV)

Scripture Reading Skill: Remote context. Look in previous passages (7:31-37). How is this healing similar to that one? Why do you think? What does Jesus tell the deaf man and the blind man? (“tell no one” and “do not enter the village.”)

Here we see what scholars have called the Messianic Secret. Jesus surprisingly tells them not to tell anyone what he has done for them! Why? Jesus doe not want his healings to overshadow his ultimate mission: to die on the cross. Jesus was focused and he knew that, if he continued to heal, they would want to make him king.

Friday, July 13

Scripture: Mark 8:27-30

[27] And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” [28] And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” [29] And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” [30] And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him. (ESV)

Scripture Reading Skill: Remote context. Yes, we’re looking at this again. Why? Jesus clearly tells Peter and the other disciples to tell no one about him. Why? The Messianic Secret. Do you see a pattern unfolding? Now look for this in other parts of the Mark as you continue to study.

This should give you great joy, cause you to appreciate even more Jesus remarkable sacrifice, his incredible focus and his ultimate goal: to die for your sins.

Living By the Book, July 2-July 6

Jesus again is on full display. I love the Gospels! Dig in!

Monday, July 2

Scripture: Mark 6:45-52

[45] Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. [46] And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. [47] And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. [48] And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, [49] but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, [50] for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” [51] And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, [52] for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened. (ESV)

Scripture Reading Skill: Things that are related. When a writer connects different events, people or things in a passage of Scripture, he does it on purpose. When looking for things that are related, look from the general to the specific. How does the writer narrow his focus? Look for questions and answers. What questions are answered directly by the writer or by people in the passage? Finally cause and effect is important. One thing causes another. One event makes another happen.

  1. What is the cause and what is the effect? This may be the most important part of this passage. Hint: Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go across the sea.
  2. How long did Jesus wait until he came to them? (Fourth watch of the night)
  3. Why did he wait so long?

Tuesday, July 3

Scripture: Mark 6:53-56

[53] When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored to the shore. [54] And when they got out of the boat, the people immediately recognized him [55] and ran about the whole region and began to bring the sick people on their beds to wherever they heard he was. [56] And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well. (ESV)

Scripture Reading Skill: Things that are emphasized. Emphasis is a great clue as to what the writer (and thus, God) is trying to accomplish. Look for how much space a topic receives. Is there a stated purpose in the text? The order of things suggests importance. Lesser to greater and greater to lesser give insight into what the writer is trying to communicate.

This is a fairly straightforward text. What is emphasized here? What does this tell you about Jesus?

Wednesday, July 4

Scripture: Mark 7:1-13

[1] Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, [2] they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. [3] (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands properly, holding to the tradition of the elders, [4] and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.) [5] And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” [6] And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; [7] in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ [8] You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” [9] And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! [10] For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ [11] But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God)—[12] then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, [13] thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.” (ESV)

Scripture Reading Skill: Things that are repeated. Look for terms, phrases, clauses that are repeated. Look for characters who show up more than once. What incidents or circumstances do you see happen more than once? Are there patterns? Do you see the OT quote (repeated) in the NT?

  1. What key word is repeated? Hint: tradition.
  2. What does this one repetition tell you about the passage? What is the point Jesus is trying to make? Notice how the entire event is wound around the idea of tradition.

Thursday, July 5

Scripture: Mark 7:14-23

[14] And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: [15] There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” [17] And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. [18] And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, [19] since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) [20] And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. [21] For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, [22] coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. [23] All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (ESV)

Scripture Reading Skill: Things that are alike and unlike. Look for similes: comparisons using like or as. Look for metaphors (one thing used to represent another). Conjunctions become turning points (specifically “but”) in a text. Finally look for irony–using words to convey a meaning opposite from a word’s original meaning.

This entire passage can only be understood in light of the previous section. Jesus is refuting the Pharisees focus on traditionalism at the expense of the heart of the law. The Pharisees were all about what went in them, not what came out of their mouths. Here Jesus speaks ironically–the passage is full of irony. He’s angry with the Pharisees. He speaks of eating and pooping–no lie!

What does this say about the human heart? What is Jesus’ point? Don’t miss this!

Friday, July 6

Scripture: Mark 6:24-30

[24] And from there he arose and went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And he entered a house and did not want anyone to know, yet he could not be hidden. [25] But immediately a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard of him and came and fell down at his feet. [26] Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. [27] And he said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” [28] But she answered him, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” [29] And he said to her, “For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.” [30] And she went home and found the child lying in bed and the demon gone. (ESV)

Scripture Reading Skill: Remote context. Look at the previous two sections of Scripture. In 7:1-13, Jesus rejects the Pharisees for being gripped by tradition. In 7:14-23, he explains himself. In this passage he heals a Gentile’s daughter. Jesus’ words seem harsh, but in light of the previous passages, he is gracious to this Gentile woman. What does he see in her that he didn’t see in the Pharisees?

Living By the Book: June 25-29

Jesus is incredible! He shines in every passage this week. Enjoy Him as you learn to take his word in. Remember the goal: for you to get into the word and getting the word into you.

Monday, June 25

Scripture: Mark 5:21-43

[21] And when Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered about him, and he was beside the sea. [22] Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet [23] and implored him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.” [24] And he went with him. And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. [25] And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, [26] and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. [27] She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. [28] For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” [29] And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. [30] And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?” [31] And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’” [32] And he looked around to see who had done it. [33] But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. [34] And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” [35] While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” [36] But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” [37] And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. [38] They came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and Jesus saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. [39] And when he had entered, he said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.” [40] And they laughed at him. But he put them all outside and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was. [41] Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” [42] And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement. [43] And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat. (ESV)

Scripture Reading Skill: Historical Context. There are 3 kinds of context: historical, immediate, and remote. In this story, we are looking at the historical context. A good resource for this is Also a good Bible dictionary is a great resource. For today, I’ll provide questions and answers to help you get at the historical context.

Questions to answer:

  1. What sea did they cross? Galilee
  2. What was the function of the synagogue in Jesus’ day? Synagogues were the center of local religious meetings, education and community interaction. They were in every town and where everyone met. To be a ruler of a synagogue was a significant honor.
  3. What does it mean, in light of #2, that the ruler of the synagogue fell at Jesus’ feet? What would this have demonstrated to the community? Now, do you see how historical details add to the understanding of the text!
  4. What did this discharge of blood signify? That this woman was unclean. And being unclean she couldn’t touch anyone or be in a crowd like this. This historical fact shows her despair. All of a sudden you see two despairing people: a morally upstanding ruler and an unclean judge. This also explains why the woman was trembling with fear–she, an unclean woman, had touched a rabbi.
  5. What is the significance of being a woman and touching Jesus? Women were considered equivalent to dogs in Jesus’ culture. Jesus didn’t view them that way, and involved them in his ministry.


Tuesday, June 26

Scripture: Mark 6:1-6

[1] He went away from there and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. [2] And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? [3] Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. [4] And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” [5] And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. [6] And he marveled because of their unbelief. And he went about among the villages teaching. (ESV)

Scripture Reading Skill: Historical context

Questions to answer:

  1. What was Jesus’ hometown? Nazareth.
  2. Knowing what you know about the synagogue, what is the significance of Jesus being in the synagogue? They must’ve thought he had the potential of being a synagogue leader or ruler. He was an effective teacher.
  3. Why did they take offense at him? Because synagogue leaders were well-educated folks and often members of a higher class. Jesus was the son of a carpenter and a teenage girl.
  4. What is the significance of Jesus going into the villages? The elite in town (in the synagogues) missed the work of God because they wouldn’t believe. He went to the obscure in the villages who, more than likely, didn’t have their own synagogue.

Hint: Jesus didn’t need a synagogue to teach–he wanted an open, willing heart.

Wednesday, June 27

Scripture: Mark 6:7-13

[7] And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. [8] He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belts—[9] but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics. [10] And he said to them, “Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you depart from there. [11] And if any place will not receive you and they will not listen to you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” [12] So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent. [13] And they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them. (ESV)

Scripture Reading Skill: Immediate context. This is what is happening in the chapter/paragraph you’re reading. Don’t get too spiritual too fast. Look for everyday details in the passage.

Spend 3 minutes making as many observations as you can about this passage. Every detail. Don’t leave anything out. Here are some examples: (don’t peek…do your own!)

  1. He called them.
  2. He sent them out two by two.
  3. He sent the disciples.
  4. He gave them authority.
  5. Their authority was specifically over unclean spirits.
  6. He charged them.
  7. He charged them–meaning he was in charge of them.
  8. He told them to only take the bare minimum. (Historical context would ask what the function of these things was he told them not to take.)
  9. Can’t help myself…shake off my dust must be explored to see what its historical significance is. You could make a 100 more observations about this passage. I’m not kidding!

Thursday, June 28

Scripture: Mark 6:14-29

[14] King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some said, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead. That is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.” [15] But others said, “He is Elijah.” And others said, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” [16] But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.” [17] For it was Herod who had sent and seized John and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because he had married her. [18] For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” [19] And Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death. But she could not, [20] for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly. [21] But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his nobles and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. [22] For when Herodias’s daughter came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests. And the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it to you.” [23] And he vowed to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half of my kingdom.” [24] And she went out and said to her mother, “For what should I ask?” And she said, “The head of John the Baptist.” [25] And she came in immediately with haste to the king and asked, saying, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” [26] And the king was exceedingly sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her. [27] And immediately the king sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison [28] and brought his head on a platter and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother. [29] When his disciples heard of it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb. (ESV)

Scripture Reading Skill: Remote context. Remote context answers what happened before and after. And this text gives you a clue that you need to look at what preceded it. “When King Herod heard of it.” You must figure out what “it” is.

“It” is the sending out of the disciples. It’s interesting that Jesus’ fame spread more when he sent others out in his name than it did when he only healed. He “deputized” these disciples and his fame began to spread. (He still works this way today!).

But your big question is where does the story of John the Baptist’s beheading fit into the overall picture of Mark. Why is it included here? That’s what remote context is about. Look back over the last few sections. Look ahead at what’s coming next. Why here?

Hint: It occurs here almost parenthetically because Herod is connected with John the Baptist’s death. However, we begin to see an alternating pattern of acceptance and rejection. Jesus is rejected in the synagogue, accepted in the village. Also, John the Baptist’s death foreshadows Jesus’ own death. Jesus knew that. This must have been sobering. This makes what he did next so unbelievable. That’s for tomorrow.

Friday, June 29

Scripture: Mark 6:30-44

[30] The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. [31] And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. [32] And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves. [33] Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. [34] When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things. [35] And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. [36] Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” [37] But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said to him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?” [38] And he said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” [39] Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass. [40] So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. [41] And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And he divided the two fish among them all. [42] And they all ate and were satisfied. [43] And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. [44] And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men. (ESV)

Scripture Reading Skill: Remote context. One question related to remote context. In light of what has happened to John the Baptist, if you’re Jesus what would you have been tempted to do? What did Jesus do instead?

Hint: Jesus had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. He, the Good Shepherd, could not quit being the Good Shepherd even if it mean his life.

Living By the Book June 18-22 and Helps

Jesus is incredible! He shines in every passage this week. Enjoy Him as you learn to take his word in. Remember the goal: for you to get into the word and getting the word into you.

Monday, June 18

Scripture: Mark 4:10-20

[10] And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. [11] And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, [12] so that
“‘they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven.’” [13] And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? [14] The sower sows the word. [15] And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. [16] And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. [17] And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. [18] And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, [19] but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. [20] But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” (ESV)

Scripture Reading Skill: Application The reason we are looking at this skill with this passage is that Jesus is, in this passage, applying the parable of the sower. When you consider application, you must necessarily answer questions about yourself.

Questions to answer:

  1. Do you know people in each of the categories Jesus mentions?
  2. How can you tell?
  3. Where are you? Be honest. Where do you want to be?
  4. What can you do to prepare your heart to receive God’s Word?


Tuesday, June 19

Scripture: Mark 4:21-25

And he said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket, or under a bed, and not on a stand? [22] For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light. [23] If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” [24] And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. [25] For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” (ESV)

Scripture Reading Skill: Understanding Parables. Remember what a parable is: a story that tells a truth–a single truth.

Questions to answer:

  1. What is the one point of this parable?
  2. Don’t forget immediate context. What did Jesus say about parables in the preceding passage?

Hint: The one point fo the parable is found in hiding a lamp and not putting it on the stand. You can’t hide light. Jesus is the light, which some receive (compare the parable of the sower) and others reject. This parable shows that the condition of the heart is not a foregone conclusion–it’s the way people are and they can ask God to change their stubborn, rebellious hearts.

Wednesday, June 20

Scripture: Mark 4:26-34

[26] And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. [27] He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. [28] The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. [29] But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

[30] And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? [31] It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, [32] yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” [33] With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it. [34] He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything. (ESV)

Scripture Reading Skill: Parables…again.

Helpful questions when studying this passage:

  1. What is the one truth of each parable? (I think they’re the same).
  2. What principles can be gleaned from this parable?

Hint: What is small becomes large, what is hidden becomes seen (see previous parable), what is little becomes much. All of these are indicators of the Kingdom of God. His kingdom will start small and become large, be hidden and then seen, be a few people then many. Wow!


Thursday, June 21

Scripture: Mark 4:35-41

[35] On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” [36] And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. [37] And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. [38] But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” [39] And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. [40] He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” [41] And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (ESV)

Scripture Reading Skill: Reading Imaginatively. You will never get the full impact of this story unless you can imagine yourself in it. If you read it quickly, re-read it. Picture it. Now that you have, consider the following questions.

  1. Where are they? (Sea of Galilee)
  2. What strikes you about their question to Jesus?
  3. What strikes you about Jesus’ questions to them?
  4. Why do you think they were filled with great fear?
  5. Why do you think they ask, “Who then is this?”

Hints: In two words I think this passage is about “misunderstanding Jesus.” They didn’t know who Jesus was. That’s why they asked, “Do you not care?” That’s why Jesus asked, “Why are you so afraid?” I think you could add, “Didn’t you know who was in the boat with you?”

Historical fact: For a Jew, control over the weather was considered to be the greatest possible miracle. That would answer question 5 above.

Friday, June 22

Scripture: Mark 5:1-20

[1] They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. [2] And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. [3] He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, [4] for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. [5] Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones. [6] And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. [7] And crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” [8] For he was saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” [9] And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” [10] And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. [11] Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, [12] and they begged him, saying, “Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.” [13] So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the pigs; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the sea. [14] The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened. [15] And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. [16] And those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs. [17] And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region. [18] As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. [19] And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” [20] And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled. (ESV)

Scripture Reading Skill: Sometimes stories have an element of surprise. What surprises you most in this story? Don’t miss the flow of the account–Jesus comes, meets a man who has terrorized the community, casts out his demons into nearby pigs, the townspeople hear about it and…SURPRISE..beg him to leave. You have to ask why this happened!

Hint: I think they asked Jesus to leave because this hurt their commerce. See verse 16 “and to the pigs.” They were afraid of someone who had so much power, even if he could solve their greatest problem. WOW!

Living By the Book June 11-15 and Helps

I’ve changed things up a bit this week. I hope this will be easier to use. All hints are included in each day. All Scripture is included with each day. This is rich stuff. Enjoy!

Monday, June 11

Scripture: Mark 3:1-6

[1] Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. [2] And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. [3] And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” [4] And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. [5] And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. [6] The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him. (ESV)

Scripture Reading Skill: Read emotionally. Oftentimes when you know the end of the story, you lose sight of the suspense along the way–and miss important details–here Jesus’ own heart.

Questions to answer:

  1. What emotions are the Pharisees feeling?
  2. What might the man with the withered hand be feeling?
  3. What emotions does Jesus express?

Now when you look at the emotions expressed by the key players in this account, what insight does that give you? What do you learn about Jesus’ heart? If this is Jesus’ heart, then this is the heart of God. How does this change the way you understand God?

Hint: How do Jesus’ anger and grief reveal the heart of God? What might God be angry about today? Grieved about?

Tuesday, June 12

Scripture: Mark 3:7-21

[7] Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea, and a great crowd followed, from Galilee and Judea [8] and Jerusalem and Idumea and from beyond the Jordan and from around Tyre and Sidon. When the great crowd heard all that he was doing, they came to him. [9] And he told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, lest they crush him, [10] for he had healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed around him to touch him. [11] And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” [12] And he strictly ordered them not to make him known. [13] And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. [14] And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach [15] and have authority to cast out demons. [16] He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); [17] James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); [18] Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot, [19] and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. [20] Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. [21] And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.” (ESV)

Scripture Reading Skill: Finding the common denominator.

Questions to answer: Here we find Jesus in different circumstances–however Mark has a common theme woven throughout. What is that? When you read what do you see as the common denominator? Don’t think theological until you’ve read for what is there. Here are questions to help you arrive at that:

  1. In verse 7 why did Mark use the word “withdrew” to describe Jesus leaving?
  2. In verse 9 why did they get a boat ready for Jesus?
  3. In verse 20 what did Jesus have difficulty trying to do?
  4. What insight does this give you into Jesus’ everyday life?
  5. What emphasis does this give on his choosing the 12 in the middle of all of this going on?

Hint:  Jesus was crowded to the point of being crushed and unable to eat, still he focused on the mission, commanding even the demons not the reveal who he was (12) and choosing his disciples so that the Word could spread.

Wednesday, June 13

Scripture: Mark 2:22-30

[22] And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” [23] And he called them to him and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? [24] If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. [25] And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. [26] And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. [27] But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house. [28] “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, [29] but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”—[30] for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.” (ESV)

Scripture Reading Skill: Interpretation This is often a very misunderstood passage. So it makes sense for us to focus on the skill of interpretation. What does Jesus mean by blaspheming against the Holy Spirit? Let’s dig in.

Helpful questions when studying this passage:

  1. Who is Jesus’ audience for this teaching? (see verse 22)
  2. What are they saying? (Jesus cast out demons because he is possessed by demons)
  3. How does Jesus’ answer refute their bold accusations?

Jesus refutes them with a philosophical argument, several actually. “How can Satan cast out Satan? Kingdom divided against itself? House divided against itself?” Then Jesus illustrates how to take out a strong man: enter his house and bind him. Who was the strong man in 27? Satan. Who is the stronger man? Jesus. Jesus cast out demons because he is taking out the strong man, Satan. He’s plundering Satan!

So, in light of this, what is blaspheming against the Holy Spirit? Succinctly, it’s calling Jesus Satan. Ultimately blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is rejecting the Holy Spirit’s call to follow Jesus, which results in following Satan.

Thursday, June 14

Scripture: Mark 3:31-35

[31] And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. [32] And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” [33] And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” [34] And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! [35] For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” (ESV)

Scripture Reading Skill: Immediate Context  Context is most important in studying Scripture. Having read all of Chapter 3, answer the following questions:

  1. Who rejects Jesus in 3:1-6?
  2. Who does Jesus reject in 3:7-12?
  3. Who does Jesus enlist in 3:13-19?
  4. Who rejects Jesus in 13:20-21?
  5. Who rejects Jesus in 3:22-30?
  6. Who does Jesus reject in 3:33?
  7. Who follows Jesus in 3:35?

The immediate context (current verses and verses before and after) reveal that lines are being drawn and people are deciding on who Jesus is to them. Is he the Son of God, or a devil? Who follows and doesn’t is a bit surprising. He is rejected by religious leaders and his own brothers and sisters! He is followed by rough and tumble fishermen. In tomorrow’s passage, Jesus teaches on the reality of not everyone following him.

Friday, June 15

Scripture: Mark 4:1-9

[1] Again he began to teach beside the sea. And a very large crowd gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat in it on the sea, and the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. [2] And he was teaching them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: [3] “Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. [4] And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. [5] Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. [6] And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. [7] Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. [8] And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” [9] And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (ESV)

Scripture Reading Skill: Understanding Parables A parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. The main rule for understanding a parable is not to try to connect every detail with something–rather look for one primary meaning. What is the one truth Jesus is trying to communicate with the parable. There can be other truths embedded in the details, but these would only support the one primary truth. That’s how parables worked then (and mostly now). In light of this definition of a parable, answer the following questions:

  1. Who is the main character of the parable?
  2. What is he doing?
  3. What is different about each time the sower sows?
  4. What is the same about each time the sower sows?
  5. What is the result of the sowing?
  6. What is the primary truth of the parable?

I believe the primary truth of this parable is this: Since the sower is the same and the seed is the same, the one difference is the soil. The soil is the human heart. In light of immediate context (chapter 3), Jesus’ family and the Pharisees did not have the heart to receive the seed. I think 3:35 and 4:8-9 are inextricably linked. Those who have good soil are those who do the will of God.

Surely Goodness and Mercy

Psalm 23 is the most oft-quoted Psalm. Charles Spurgeon said, ““I have all things and abound; not because I have a good store of money in the bank, not because I have skill and wit with which to win my bread, but because the Lord is my shepherd.”

Alexander McClaren added:

No wise, forward look can ignore the possibility of many sorrows and the certainty of some. Hope has ever something of dread in her eyes. The road will not be always bright and smooth, but will sometimes plunge down into grim cations, where no sunbeams reach. But even that anticipation may be calm. “Thou art with me” is enough. He who guides into the gorge will guide through it. It is not a cul de sac, shut in with precipices, at the far end; but it opens out on shining tablelands, where there is greener pasture.”

He who guides into the gorge will guide through it.

You may be in the gorge, but the Lord promises His presence. He will not abandon you. He never forsakes His own. Scripture is replete with those promises. Here are two:

It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” (Deuteronomy 31:8, ESV)

The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. (Zephaniah 3:17, ESV)

Oswald Chambers, in My Utmost for His Highest adds:

We have the idea that God is going to do some exceptional thing— that He is preparing and equipping us for some extraordinary work in the future. But as we grow in His grace we find that God is glorifying Himself here and now, at this very moment. If we have God’s assurance behind us, the most amazing strength becomes ours, and we learn to sing, glorifying Him even in the ordinary days and ways of life.

So take a few minutes and join Shane and Shane and the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir and sing through the storm: