Why did Jesus walk across the wind-blown Sea of Galilee in the middle of the night? Why was Jesus going to just walk right by the disciples struggling to row to the Bethsaida shore? Much about this story is unexpected. This story, more than many others, makes us wonder what Jesus hoped to accomplish by doing something so unexpected. But this is how Mark helps us to see what the disciples in that boat struggled to see: Jesus dramatically claimed his place as God in the flesh.
The story of Jesus feeding 5,000 men from just five loaves of bread and two fish is one of the best known stories from the Gospels. The miraculous power of the Creator was surely on display in Jesus' ability to serve those thousands of people from an amount of food that was really only enough for one or two. He not only fed them, Jesus satisfied their hunger! More importantly, in this lesson, we consider how this miracle story helps us understand the importance of the first feeding story of that day - when Jesus recognized this multitude of "sheep without a shepherd." From that crowd, we learn a crucial lesson about how we, too, should approach the Lord and Savior, Jesus.
People in Jesus' day weren't sure what to think of him. The things he did and said made it pretty clear that he was another prophet sent by God to speak to God's people. But Mark shows us in this story that Jesus is so much more than a prophet. And that gives us hope beyond this world.
Mark gives an account of Jesus sending the twelve disciples out on their first mission. They do everything just like Jesus did: they preached the gospel, cast out demons, healed diseases, and utterly relied upon God to provide everything for their work and journey. They enjoyed success this time, but Mark divides his account of this story with the story of John the Baptist's beheading by King Herod. We take from this the warning that discipleship on Jesus' path is to follow him on the way to the cross. But there is no more blessed way to be than to be just like Jesus.
Sometimes, closely held, sincere beliefs can become the very things that prevent believing the truth. In such cases, ironically, belief can be un-belief. This is the theme of the tragic story of Nazareth, Jesus' hometown, in Mark 6. Jesus came demonstrating his amazing teaching and the divine power working in him to heal. But most in Nazareth would not believe in him, because he was just "the carpenter" down the street, whose family still lived among them. We need to let Nazareth serve as a warning to us to always be willing to recognize and follow God himself, not just what we are willing to believe about him.
Mark gives us two, compelling case studies in faith that saves. In short, from Jesus himself we are told to - like the woman whose hemorrhage was healed, and like Jairus whose daughter was about to be raised back to life - just keep believing in the awesome power and infinite goodness of God, our savior.
Mark tells us about how Jesus saves a man possessed by thousands of demons. The details Mark provides help us to see seven characteristics of Satan's "kingdom of darkness" (Colossians 1:13). This examination of Mark's story leads us into a celebration of the good news of salvation in Jesus, and how each of us can share it.
Jesus teaches that the Kingdom of God is like someone scattering seed, and the seed comes up while the planter sleeps and waits. The harvest eventually comes because of the power of the seed itself. The good news that Jesus is lord and savior goes with divine power wherever it is scattered. Those who trust in Jesus need also to trust his powerful word.
God wants us to understand what he revealed through the teachings of Jesus and his apostles. But Jesus taught in parables, and the apostles' teachings are thousands of years old. How can we teach a world that isn't interested in trying to understand what Jesus taught us? In Jesus' example we find our mission -- to live the Truth in love.
Jesus taught in parables to hide the truth from those who did not really want to know the truth. The other side of that coin, so to speak, is that Jesus used the parables to reveal the truth to those who want to know and live by the truth. This is the lesson of Mark's account of the Parable of the Soils in Mark 4:1-20. The difference between receiving the truth or not is found in the fact that the few who would learn from Jesus asked him to help them understand.
In light of this, we learn a general principle of discipleship. Whatever "The Question" is in our lives at the moment, bring it to Jesus in order to learn the true answer.