Day Eight with Mark: Mark 3:1-6

Today we take a look at Mark 3:1-6.  This is entitled The Man with a Withered Hand

The Man with a Withered Hand
3 Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. 2 They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. 3 And he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come forward.” 4 Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. 5 He looked around at them with anger; he was 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 conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.

Christ_heals_tne_man_with_paralysed_handWe see Jesus heal a man on the Sabbath.  Remember, this is after His teaching on the Sabbath and religion, religion is a good thing, but it doesn’t save.  Only Jesus saves.  The text here says that people were watching to see if He would heal, not to celebrate that someone was healed, but so that they may accuse Him.

Also, notice in verse 5, Jesus gets angry.  Did you expect to see that?  Two things.  First, being “angry” is not a sin.  If getting angry was a sin, then Jesus just sinned, and we know that Jesus didn’t sin. So, there are times in our lives when are going to get angry.

So, here’s the second thing, and a question.  What is it that makes us angry?  Why are we angry.  For Jesus, it is when people are harmed or abused.  When people are harmed or abused, we should be angry.  We should be angry at sin.  At things that are destructive.  We should be angry when children and families are endangered.  We should be angry at things that destroy.  But never act out of vengeance.  Be angry, but do not sin.

I want to unpack for you why the Pharisees were so against Jesus healing on the Sabbath and seemed to be a constant trouble to Jesus.  Believe it or not, they meant well.  They were trying to do what they thought was wrong, but man oh man, did they miss it.

To understand this, we’ve got to go back in the Old Testament. We see in Genesis 12, God called Abraham.  And we see what God promises him.  A land and a people (and that he will be a blessing to all the earth).

As we move forward through the Old Testament, in the Law and the Covenant, we see this Word over and over again to the people.  If you keep the covenant, you keep the land.  If don’t, you will lose it. And that’s what happened. The people didn’t keep the law, and ultimately the nation of Israel divided to the northern kingdom Israel (which was destroyed by Assyria) and the southern kingdom Judah (which was destroyed by Babylon).

Babylon took from Jerusalem the young, the brightest, the smartest, and brought them to Babylon with the intent of making them Babylonian.  That’s where the book of Daniel happened, it’s where Ezekiel wrote his prophecy, Psalm 137 was written then, and then Ezra and Nehemiah chronicles the process of restoration after the Babylonian exile.

What happened during the exile was a group of religious leaders rose up and said this (I’m paraphrasing).  Ok, y’all, last time we were home, we didn’t keep the law. And look what happened. We lost everything. So, when we get back, we are going to keep the law. We are going to keep our promises to God. And we will make sure the do it right. That’s where the Pharisees came from.

And you know what? What they wanted to do was a good thing. They wanted the people to keep their promises. They wanted people to keep the law. They wanted people to be true. But they guided by fear. They were afraid of what would happen when people broke the law.

So, we see Jesus heal on the Sabbath, which they considered work. And the law is clear.  Do not work on the Sabbath (by the way, they had built extra laws that would define what “work” was, how far you could walk, things such as that).  So instead of celebration that someone was healed, they would say YOU BROKE THE SABBATH!  REMEMBER WHAT HAPPENED LAST TIME WE DID THIS!  YOU CAN’T DO THAT!

Their intent started off good. But what happened was this. They mistook the law for God.  The focused more on their man-made laws than they did the revelation of God – Jesus Christ – standing in front of them.

They were guided by fear.  And that’s a dangerous, dangerous thing.  They were actually trying (in their own way) to honor God. But they missed the point.

And that can be a reminder to us today that truly want to worship God and honor Him. Let’s keep the main thing the main thing.  Let’s focus on following Jesus. And let’s do all that we can do to bring glory to His name.

What questions do you have?  How does this strike you?  Shoot me an email, comment below, or connect with me through social media.

Monday we’ll look at Mark 3:7-11.

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How to Be Forgiven

Today in our passage, we are going to look at two people praying.  Let’s look at their prayers, and see what we can learn about our own walk with God.  

Luke 18: 10-14:

Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayer thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

How to GuideWe see two men pray. One was a Pharisee, one was a tax collector.  Just a little back ground, Pharisees would best be understood as sort of like preachers.  They were educated, they knew the law and the customs of the people and part of what they did was they taught the law to the people and made sure that it was kept. 

A Pharisee felt like his calling was to make sure that people correctly followed God and His law.  

A tax collector was someone that was Jewish and worked for the Roman government. They quite often would use the power of the government to extort money from their own people.  They were seen as traitors by other Jews, they were literally hated. 

So, here we see a religious man that should be looked up and respected by his peers, and someone that was literally hated.  

And yet, in this parable, who walks away forgiven?  The tax collector.  

Why?  Why was he forgiven?  

He asked for it.  He admitted his need, and asked forgiveness for it. And he received forgiveness for it. 

Why was the Pharisee not forgiven?  He didn’t ask.  

So, how are we forgiven?  First, we have to realize that we need forgiveness.  Don’t think we are perfect. Don’t think we’ve got it all figured out. Understand our need.  

And then, ask for forgiveness. And we will be forgiven.  

Today, no matter who you are, where you are, what has happened, you can be forgiven. Really.  Just ask.  It will happen. 

Today, live in the forgiveness. Live in new life.  You are forgiven. 

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Mercy, not Sacrifice

Jesus got fussed at a lot.

He did things that caused other folks to fuss at Him, or judge Him, or condemn Him. He was always doing things that folks didn’t like, or thought He shouldn’t be.

Why? Why did He do these things? And why did folks fuss at Him?

Let’s look at a text today in Matthew 9:10-13 and see why:

And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.” For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

mercy-graceJesus eats with the tax collectors and sinners here in this text. And the religious leaders didn’t like that. They fussed at Him and said, you shouldn’t do that. You don’t need to do that.

They aren’t worthy. They are unclean. They shouldn’t be accepted at a meal, they should be judged for their sin.

And Jesus said – I desire mercy, not sacrifice.

That throws folks off. That notion makes us uneasy. Not within ourselves. I like mercy for me. It’s judgement I want for them.

I want God to forgive my sins. But, they deserve judgement for their sin.

Jesus says no – I give mercy.

The “law” is easy. It’s a check list. Do these things. Don’t do these things. It’s easy.

But, actually it’s not. We find that we wind up doing the things we shouldn’t be doing, and we wind up not doing the things that we should be doing. And then we are confused. Broken. Ashamed. We beat ourselves up.

So, hear the words of Jesus. He came to bring mercy.

Take that mercy on yourself today. And here, here’s the hard part.

Give that mercy to “them.” Whoever “they” are. They need that mercy as much as we do. Jesus came to give us mercy. Jesus came to give them mercy.

Today, be a people of mercy, not a people of judgement. And in that, we are obedient the law of love that Jesus gave us to follow!

Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phones.

The Simplest Command

I was talking last night at Bible Study here as Asbury about the Bible and how we can get bogged down in certain passages or interpretations. We can get confused, worried, and upset about how to interpret certain passages.

That’s one reason I’ve always like something that John Wesley said – Scripture contains everything needful for salvation, and everything needful is made plain within. So, in other words, everything we need to know to be saved is found in the Bible, and if it’s so important that our eternal salvation depends upon, God will make it simple to understand.

There is so much simple truth in the Bible. So many simple things that are at the heart of what it means to be a Christian. The Christian life really isn’t that complicated. It’s pretty simple in the end.

Look at Romans 13: 8-10 says:

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

We see it laid out here. All the commandments, the whole of the Old and the New Testament is laid out for us – love. Love each other. If you love, you won’t murder, steal, or any of other hurtful things.

Love sums up the law. It’s the simplest of the commands. Love.

Today, in our lives, is every action guided by love? Is every word, every action, even every thought, is it guided by love? That’s our greatest command as Christians. To love.

It’s the simplest command.

But before we can fully love others as God wants us to, we must first know the power of His love. For us to fulfill this simplest command, we must first be fully loved ourselves.

Today, may we know the power of God’s amazing love. And may we love one another in the same way.

Be Careful

Last night in my Small Group Connection (Asbury’s Small Group) we were talking about the end of Galatians 2.  In that passage it talks about how if we can earn salvation through our works or through following any law, then Jesus Christ died for nothing.

And we talked a little bit about the fact none of us are righteous.  None of us.

Just because we come to church, or pray, or read our Bible, or serve, or give, or “do” anything, these things don’t make our righteous, these things don’t save us.

Jesus saves us.

In fact, I argued that those of us that are Christian are actually a little more unrighteous than others. Because we KNOW right from wrong. We KNOW what we should do and not do. And we choose to wrong.  We choose sin. We know right from wrong and we choose wrong.

We know better. And we don’t do better.

So, as Christians today, we need to be careful. Be careful judging others. Be careful thinking you are righteous. Be careful thinking you are better.  Be careful thinking you are holier.

Listen to what happens today in Mark 2:

Later, Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus’ followers.) But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?” When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”

Let us not be like the religious leaders, who saw themselves as “better” than others. Let us realize today that we are in need of a doctor. That we are in need of a savior. That our sins are as great as anyone else’s out there.

And He loves us anyway. He loves us in spite of our sin.  And let us live a life seeking after Him as a joyful response to His mercy and grace.

Let us be careful that we never think that we are “better than” others. We are simply saved by grace through faith, so none of us can boast.  Let us live a joyful life in response. And let us seek to love others as Jesus loved us.

None of us are righteous, no not one. Thank God Almighty for grace, mercy, and salvation. May we show to others that same grace that Jesus shown to us.

Let us be careful to never become like the Pharisees.

Simple

One of my favorite statements by John Wesley was in talking about the Bible.  He said “The Bible contains everything needful for salvation.  And everything that is needful is made plain within.”  I just love that quote because it tells us two things.

First, everything we need to know to be a Christian is found within the Bible.  We know that we can look there inside to find the things that are necessary to be a Christian. But, to me, the second part is just as important.  In that he said that all these things are made plain with.

If it’s important enough to impact our salvation, don’t you think that God would make it plain to understand?  If it was something that was going to impact our eternity, don’t you think that God would make it simple within Scripture?

God doesn’t play hide and seek within His plan.  He doesn’t play hide and seek with salvation.  He wants to know, to understand, to seek yes, but to find. Scripture says to seek and we will find.  Knock and the door will be opened.  God wants it to be simple to understand.

It may be hard to follow, but simple to understand.

In that vein, listen to what Paul says in Romans 13 today:

For the commandments say, “You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet.”  These—and other such commandments—are summed up in this one commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law.

These commands are summed up in that command.  Love.  Love your neighbor.  Jesus taught us in the Gospel that the entire law is summed up in that command, love God, love your neighbor. That’s it. That’s the list.

Simple.

Easy to understand.

Hard to do. But simple to understand.

You want to follow the law today?  You want to be good?  You want to be holy?  Love.  Love you neighbor.  Lay down your life for them.  Point them to Jesus. Care, pray, carry.  Love.

That’s the law.  Love God and love neighbor.  Simple.  Simple to understand.

So, the question for us today, is what will we do with it? Will we follow the law?  Will we love?  In that action, we are keeping the law.

May we see the simplicity and beautify of God’s law and God’s command to us today.  To love.

What Does God Require?

One of the questions that is asked a lot in the prophets is what does God require of His people?

Through the Old Testament, the Law is given. The people are told, you are commanded to this,  you are commanded to do that.

The Law was given and the people were told to follow.

And that’s all that God requires, right? That’s all that He wants, right?  Follow the letter of the Law and it’s all good.

We see that addressed today in Hosea:

6For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

God wanted the people to follow the Law. God wanted the people to do what He had commanded.  God wanted the people to be the people that He had called them to be.

But, it all starts first, not with following the Law. It starts with a broken heart.  It starts with a heart in love with God.  It starts with a spirit that willing to grow and be devoted to God.

God wants your actions, yes. God wants everything you do to glorify Him and serve Him.

God wants you to live for Him fully each day of your life.

But, God knows that the only way you will live for Him and follow His law is for Him to have your heart.

What does God require?  What does God want?

He wants your heart.  He wants your devotion.  He wants your spirit.

And, if He has that, He will have your actions.

May He have all of our hearts today.  And in that, He will have all of our actions.

Hard to Do

I had a professor at Mississippi College, Dr. Harold Bryson, that used to tell his students some thing that has always stuck with me – “Jesus isn’t hard to understand, He’s just hard to follow.”

That came back to me this morning as I read these words from Paul in Romans 13:

8 Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.

Religion can be fun to debate about.  We can passionate conversation (i.e. arguments) about baptism.  Or about communion.  Or about a lot of things within our faith. But, these issues, these conversations, they don’t measure up to the whole of what the faith is about, about what the faith must be producing in our lives.

Love.

We have been loved by an awesome, amazing, holy, righteous, almighty God.  A God is all, before all, and beyond all. A God that is simply amazing, that our minds cannot fathom.

He has given us His son. He has taught us His way. And He wants us to live as He has called us to live.

What is the life?  Perfection?  Nope.  Winning theological arguments?  Nope.  Being better than other folks?  Nope.

Love.  Loving your neighbor as yourself fulfils the law.  That’s it. That’s the list.

That sounds awesome. The only problem is that it is hard. It’s hard to love your neighbor sometimes.  It’s hard to forgive your neighbor sometimes.  It’s easy to talk about, easy to right about, easy to think about.  It’s hard to do sometimes.

We can only do it though God’s grace.  It’s what we are called to do.  It’s what we must do this week. Love.  As we’ve been loved. And we are going to run into someone who we just don’t feel like we can/should love.

What is our response?  Love. That’s the command of Jesus.  Love. But remember that power to love doesn’t come from ourselves, but through Him.

Even when it’s hard to do, through the grace of God, may we love each other as He has loved us.