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.
Jesus' enemies accuse him of being the embodiment of Satan, because Jesus so easily casts out Satan's demons. Jesus quickly show them and everyone gathered how obvious it is that those enemies ignore the glaring Truth: Jesus is the embodiment of the one and only God.
The knowledge of the true God communicated by Jesus's teachings and actions sets free everyone held in Satan's chains of deception. Above all, Jesus' self-offering on the cross tells the Truth about God's love and God's justice. All who listen and believe are free forever, no matter what earthly governments are doing.
In Mark 2:23-28 some Pharisees accuse Jesus and his disciples of violating the Sabbath law by snacking on some grain while they walked through the fields. Jesus does not argue with their accusation. We notice, instead, that he teaches that there is a righteousness more important in God's sight than religious observance. He wants them to know that God gave some religious instructions for the benefit of humankind, not as a way to keep human beings "in line." Jesus teaches his disciples to honor God's heart as well as God's words.
In Mark 2:18-22, Jesus provides two vivid parables that give a vision of his revolutionary mission in the world. Jesus came to establish a New Covenant from God with humankind. This new covenant includes God's gracious gift of a new way of thinking about everything. Something sorely needed in today's chaos.
Recent, violent riots combine with the recent pandemic to raise questions about just what kind of moment we are living in. There is a temptation to fear, because the times are unfamiliar to us, and many things that seemed secure are now in question. In this message, we consider how the once-and-for-all hope in Christ gives Christians hope for this time and for all others.