The Gospel of Mark:Scripture: Mark 4:21-25

“The measure you give will be the measure you get”

Scripture:  Mark 4:21-25

21 And he said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under a bushel, or under a bed, and not on a stand? 22 For there is nothing hid, except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret, except to come to light. 23 If any man has ears to hear, let him hear.” 24 And he said to them, “Take heed what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you. 25 For to him who has will more be given; and from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”

Meditation: What does the image of light and a lamp tell us about God’s kingdom? Lamps in the ancient world served a vital function, much like they do today. They enable people to see and work in the dark and to avoid stumbling. The Jews also understood “light” as an expression of the inner beauty, truth, and goodness of God. In his light we see light ( Psalm 36:9). His word is a lamp that guides our steps (Psalm 119:105). God’s grace not only illumines the darkness in our lives, but it also fills us with spiritual light, joy, and peace. Jesus used the image of a lamp to describe how his disciples are to live in the light of his truth and love. Just as natural light illumines the darkness and enables one to see visually, so the light of Christ shines in the hearts of believers and enables us to see the heavenly reality of God’s kingdom. In fact, our mission is to be light-bearers of Christ so that others may see the truth of the gospel and be freed from the blindness of sin and deception. Jesus remarks that nothing can remain hidden or secret. We can try to hide things from others, from ourselves, and from God. How tempting to shut our eyes from the consequences of our sinful ways and bad habits, even when we know what those consequences are. And how tempting to hide them form others and even from God. But, nonetheless, everything is known to God who sees all. There is great freedom and joy for those who live in God’s light and who seek this truth. Those who listen to God and heed his voice will receive more from him. Do you know the joy and freedom of living in God’s light?

“Lord, you guide me by the light of your saving truth.  Fill my heart and mind with your light and truth and free me from the blindness of sin and deception that I may see your ways clearly and understand your will for my life.  May I radiate your light and truth to others in word and deed.”

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The Gospel of Mark: Scripture: Mark 4:1-20

 

“Those who hear the word and accept it, bear fruit a hundredfold”

Scripture:  Mark 4:1-20

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 taught them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: 3 “Listen! 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 had not 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 brought forth 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.” 10 And when he was alone, those who were about him with the twelve asked him concerning 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 again, 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 which is  sown in them. 16 And these in like manner are the ones sown upon rocky ground, 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 delight in riches, and the desire for other things, enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. 20 But those that were sown upon the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a  hundredfold.”

Meditation:   What does the parable about seeds and roots say to us about the kingdom of God? Any farmer will attest to the importance of good soil for supplying nutrients for growth. And how does a plant get the necessary food and water it needs except by its roots? The scriptures frequently use the image of fruit-bearing plants or trees to convey the principle of spiritual life and death. “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord.  He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit” (Jeremiah 17:7-8; see also Psalm 1:3)

Jesus’ parable of the sower is aimed at the hearers of his word. There are different ways of accepting God’s word and they produce different kinds of fruit accordingly. There is the prejudiced hearer who has a shut mind. Such a person is unteachable and blind to what he or she doesn’t want to hear. Then there is the shallow hearer. He or she fails to think things out or think them through; they lack depth. They may initially respond with an emotional reaction; but when it wears off their mind wanders to something else. Another type of hearer is the person who has many interests or cares, but who lacks the ability to hear or comprehend what is truly important.  Such a person is too busy to pray or too preoccupied to study and meditate on God’s word. Then there is the one whose mind is open. Such a person is at all times willing to listen and to learn. He or she is never too proud or too busy to learn. They listen in order to understand. God gives grace to those who hunger for his word that they may understand his will and have the strength to live according to it. Do you hunger for God’s word?

“Lord, faith in your word is the way to wisdom, and to ponder your divine plan is to grow in the truth.  Open my eyes to your deeds, and my ears to the sound of your call, that I may understand your will for my life and live according to it”.

 

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The Gospel of Mark: Scripture: Mark 3:31-35

 

 “Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother”

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 about him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, asking for you.” 33 And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking around on those who sat about him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother.”

Meditation: Who do you love and cherish the most? God did not intend for us to be alone, but to be with others. He gives us many opportunities for developing relationships with family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. Why did Jesus, on this occasion, seem to ignore his own relatives when they pressed to see him? His love and respect for his mother and his relatives was unquestionable. Jesus never lost an opportunity to teach his disciples a spiritual lesson and truth about the kingdom of God. On this occasion when many gathered to hear Jesus he pointed to another higher reality of relationships, namely our relationship with God and with those who belong to God.

What is the essence of being a Christian? It is certainly more than doctrine, precepts, and commandments. It is first and foremost a relationship – a relationship of trust, affection, commitment, loyalty, faithfulness, kindness, thoughtfulness, compassion, mercy, helpfulness, encouragement, support, strength, protection, and so many other qualities that bind people together in mutual love and unity. God offers us the greatest of relationships – union of heart, mind, and spirit with himself, the very author and source of love (1 John 4:8,16). God’s love never fails, never forgets, never compromises, never lies, never lets us down nor disappoints us. His love is consistent, unwavering, unconditional, and unstopable. We may choose to separate ourselves from him, but nothing will make him ignore us, leave us, or treat us unkindly. He will pursue us, love us, and call us to return to him no matter what might stand in the way. It is his nature to love. That is why he created us – to be united with him and to share in his love and unity of persons (1 John 3:1). God is a trinity of persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – and a community of love. That is why Jesus challenged his followers and even his own earthly relatives to recognize that God is the true source of all relationships. God wants all of our relationships to be rooted in his love.

Jesus is God’s love incarnate – God’s love made visible in human flesh (1 John 4:9-10). That is why Jesus describes himself as the good shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep and the shepherd who seeks out the sheep who have strayed and lost their way. God is like the father who yearns for his prodigal son to return home and then throws a great party for his son when he has a change of heart and comes back (Luke 15:11-32). Jesus offered up his life on the cross for our sake, so that we could be forgiven and restored to unity and friendship with God. It is through Jesus that we become the adopted children of God – his own sons and daughters. That is why Jesus told his disciples that they would have many new friends and family relationships in his kingdom. Whoever does the will of God is a friend of God and a member of his family – his sons and daughters who have been ransomed by the precious blood of Christ.

An early Christian martyr once said that “a Christian’s only relatives are the saints” – namely those who have been redeemed by the blood of Christ and adopted as sons and daughters of God. Those who have been baptized into Jesus Christ and who live as his disciples enter into a new family, a family of “saints” here on earth and in heaven. Jesus changes the order of relationships and shows that true kinship is not just a matter of flesh and blood. Our adoption as sons and daughters of God transforms all of our relationships and requires a new order of loyalty to God first and to his kingdom of righteousness and peace. Do you want to grow in love and friendship? Allow God’s Holy Spirit to transform your heart, mind, and will to enable you to love freely and generously as he loves.

“Heavenly Father, you are the source of all true friendship and love. In all my relationships, may your love be my constant guide for choosing what is good and for rejecting what is contrary to your will.”

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The Gospel of Mark: Scripture: Mark 3:22-30

“All sins will be forgiven except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit”

Scripture:  Mark 3:22-30

22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Be-el’zebul, 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 sons of men, 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 had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

Meditation:  When danger lurks, what kind of protection do you seek? Jesus came to free us from the greatest danger of all – the corrupting force of evil which destroys us from within and makes us slaves to sin and Satan (John 8:34). Evil is not an impersonal force that just happens. It has a name and a face and it seeks to master every heart and soul on the face of the earth (1 Peter 5:8-9). Scripture identifies the Evil One by many names, ‘Satan’, ‘Be-el’zebul – the prince of demons’, the ‘Devil’, the ‘Deceiver’, the ‘Father of Lies’, and ‘Lucifier’, the fallen angel who broke rank with God and established his own army and kingdom in opposition to God. Jesus declared that he came to overthrow the power of Satan and his kingdom (John 12:31). Jesus’ numerous exorcisms brought freedom to many who were troubled and oppressed by the work of evil spirits. Jesus himself encountered personal opposition and battle with Satan when he was put to the test in the wilderness just before his public ministry (Matthew 4:1; Luke 4:1). He overcame the Evil One through his obedience to the will of his Father.

Some of the Jewish leaders reacted vehemently to Jesus’ healings and exorcisms and they opposed him with malicious slander. How could Jesus get the power and authority to release individuals from Satan’s influence and control? They assumed that he had to be in league with Satan. They attributed his power to Satan rather than to God. Jesus asserts that no kingdom divided against itself can survive for long. We have witnessed enough civil wars in our own time to prove the destructive force at work here for the annihilation of whole peoples and their land. If Satan lends his power against his own forces then he is finished. Cyril of Alexandria, a 5th century church father explains the force of Jesus’ argument:

Kingdoms are established by the fidelity of subjects and the obedience of those under the royal scepter. Houses are established when those who belong to them in no way whatsoever thwart one another but, on the contrary, agree in will and deed. I suppose it would establish the kingdom too of Beelzebub, had he determined to abstain from everything contrary to himself. How then does Satan cast out Satan? It follows then that devils do not depart from people on their own accord but retire unwillingly. “Satan,” he says, “does not fight with himself.” He does not rebuke his own servants. He does not permit himself to injure his own armorbearers. On the contrary, he helps his kingdom. “It remains for you to understand that I crush Satan by divine power.” [Commentary on Luke, Homily 80]

Jesus asserted his authority to cast out demons as a clear demonstration of the reign of God. God’s power is clearly at work in the exorcisms which Jesus performed and they give evidence that God’s kingdom has come.

What kind of spiritual danger or harm should we avoid at all costs? Jesus used the illustration of a strong man whose house and possessions were kept secure. How could such a person be overtaken and robbed of his goods except by someone who is stronger than himself? Satan, who is our foe and the arch-enemy of God, is stronger than us. Unless we are clothed in God’s strength, we cannot withstand Satan with our own human strength. What does Satan wish to take from us – our faith and confidence in God and our allegiance to follow God’s law. Satan is a rebel and a liar. Satan can only have power or dominion over us if we listen to his lies and succumb to his will which is contrary to the will of God. Jesus makes it clear that there are no neutral parties in this world. We are either for Jesus or against him, for the kingdom of God or against it. There are two kingdoms in opposition to one another – the kingdom of God’s light and truth and the kingdom of darkness and deception under the rule of Satan. If we disobey God’s word, we open the door to the power of sin and Satan’s influence in our lives. If we want to live in true freedom from the power of sin and Satan, then our “house” – our mind and heart and whatever we allow to control our appetites and desires – must be occupied and ruled by Jesus Christ where he is enthroned as Lord and Savior. Do you know the peace and security of a life submitted to God and to his word?

What is the unforgivable sin which Jesus warns us to avoid? Jesus knows that his disciples will be tested and he assures them that the Holy Spirit will give them whatever grace and help they need in their time of adversity. He warns them, however, that it’s possible to spurn the grace of God and to fall into apostasy (giving up the faith) out of cowardice or disbelief. Why is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit reprehensible? Blasphemy consists in uttering against God, inwardly or outwardly, words of hatred, reproach, or defiance. It’s contrary to the respect due God and his holy name. Jesus speaks of blaspheming against the Holy Spirit as the unforgivable sin. Jesus spoke about this sin immediately after the scribes and Pharisees had attributed his miracles to the work of the devil instead of to God. A sin can only be unforgivable if repentance is impossible. If people repeatedly closes their eyes to God, shuts their ears to his voice, and reject his word, they bring themselves to a point where they can no longer recognize God when he can be seen and heard. They become spiritually blind-sighted and speak of “evil as good and good as evil” (Isaiah 5:20).

To fear such a state of sin and spiritual blindness, however, signals that one is not dead to God and is conscious of the need for God’s grace, mercy, and help. There are no limits to the mercy of God, but anyone who refuses to acknowledge and confess their sins and to ask God for forgiveness, spurns God’s generous offer of mercy, pardon, grace, and healing. Through their own stubborn pride and wilfullness, they reject God, refuse his grace and help to turn away from sin, and reject the transforming power of the Holy Spirit to heal and restore them to wholeness. God always gives sufficient grace and help to all who humbly call upon him. Giving up on God and refusing to turn away from sin and disbelief results from pride and the loss of hope in God.

What is the basis of our hope and confidence in God? Through Jesus’ death on the cross and his victory over the grave when he rose again on the third day, Satan has been defeated and death has been overcome. We now share in Christ’s victory over sin and Satan and receive adoption as God’s sons and daughters. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Lord enables us to live a new life of love and freedom from slavery to sin. The Lord Jesus is our refuge and strength because he makes his home with us (John 15:4) and gives us the power and help of the Holy Spirit. Do you take refuge in the Lord and allow him to be the Ruler of your life?

“Lord Jesus, you are my hope and salvation. Be the ruler of my heart and the master of my home. May there be nothing in my life that is not under your lordship.”

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The Gospel of Mark:Scripture: Mark 3:19b, 20-21

“The people were saying of Jesus, ‘He is beside himself’ “

Scripture: Mark 3:19b, 20-21

Then he went home; 20 and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. 21 And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for people were saying, “He is beside himself.”

Meditation: Is the Lord Jesus honored in your home?  Why would Jesus’ relatives be so upset with him when he began his public ministry?  On one occasion Jesus remarked that a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household (Matthew 10:36). The Gospel of Mark records the reaction of Jesus’ relatives when he went home: they came to seize him. They, no doubt, thought that Jesus must have gone mad or become a religious fanatic. How could a good home-body from Nazareth leave his father’s carpentry trade and go off to become an itinerant preacher? Jesus had thrown away the security and safety of a quiet and respectable life close to his family and relatives. He, undoubtedly, expected opposition from the Jewish authorities. The hardest opposition, however, may come from someone close to us, even your own kin. Jesus met opposition with grace and with determination to fulfill his Father’s will. Are you ready to obey and follow the Lord even if others oppose your doing so?

“Lord, may I always put you first and find joy in doing your will. May your love and charity grow in me, especially in the face of opposition and adversity.”

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The Gospel of Mark: Scripture: Mark 3:13-19

 

“Jesus called to him those whom he desired”

Scripture: Mark 3:13-19

13 And he went up on the mountain, and called to him those whom he desired; and they came to him. 4 And he appointed twelve, to be with him, and to be sent out to preach 15 and have authority to cast out demons: 16 Simon whom he surnamed Peter; 17 James the son of Zeb’edee and John the brother of James, whom he surnamed Bo-aner’ges, 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 Cananaean, 19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. Then he went home.

Meditation: What is God’s call on your life?  When Jesus embarked on his mission he chose twelve men for the task of preaching the kingdom of God and healing the sick in the power of that kingdom. In the choice of the twelve, we see a characteristic feature of God’s work: Jesus chose very ordinary people. They were non-professionals, who had no wealth or position. They were chosen from the common people who did ordinary things, had no special education, and no social advantages. Jesus wanted ordinary people who could take an assignment and do it extraordinarily well. He chose these men, not for what they were, but for what they would be capable of becoming under his direction and power. When the Lord calls us to serve, we must not shrug back because we think that we have little or nothing to offer. The Lord takes what ordinary people, like us, can offer and uses it for greatness in his kingdom. Do you make your life an offering to the Lord and allow him to use you as he sees fit?

“Lord, fill me with gratitude and generosity for all you have done for me. Take my life and all that I have as an offering of love for you, who are my All.”

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The Gospel of Mark: Scripture: Mark 3:7-12

“All who had diseases pressed upon Jesus to touch him

Scripture: Mark 3:7-12

7 Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea, and a great multitude from Galilee followed; also from Judea 8 and Jerusalem and Idume’a and from beyond the Jordan and from about Tyre and Sidon a great multitude, hearing all that he did, came to him. 9 And he told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, lest they should crush him; 10 for he had healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed upon him to touch him. 11 And whenever the unclean spirits beheld 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.

Meditation: Is there anything holding you back from giving yourself unreservedly to God?  Jesus offered freedom to everyone who sought him out. Wherever Jesus went the people came to him because they had heard all the things he did. They were hungry for God and desired healing from their afflictions. In faith they pressed upon Jesus to touch him. As they did so power came from Jesus and they were healed. Even demons trembled in the presence of Jesus and acknowledged his true identity: You are the Son of God. When you hear God’s word and consider all that Jesus did, how do you respond? With doubt or with expectant faith?  With skepticism or with confident expectation? Ask the Lord the increase your faith in his saving power and grace.

“Lord Jesus Christ, you are the Son of God and the Savior of the world. Inflame my heart with a burning love for you and with an expectant faith in your saving power. Set me free from all that hinders me from drawing closer to you.”

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