The crowds in Judea celebrate the coming of King Jesus, as they should. The story challenges disciples of Jesus in America to remember that Jesus is our King. He has promised - and proven - that he will provide everything we need. He is worthy of our celebration every time we gather to worship in his name.
Why does Jesus teach the disciples that it is impossible for a wealthy person to enter the Kingdom of God? What hope is there for Americans who are all wealthy compared to many places around the world? In this study we learn that Jesus can save even wealthy people, if we will humble ourselves to receive from him the gift of salvation.
The disciples think they're helping Jesus in his Kingdom of God work by shooing the children away. Jesus shocks them by telling them that if they want to be a part of the Kingdom they need to become like those children! In this lesson, we consider Jesus' example to understand what it means to have a child-like faith.
Jesus taught the disciples to welcome mere children in Jesus' name. John responds by telling about an exorcist that John and the others prevented from doing such work in Jesus' name. Jesus takes that opportunity to teach all of his disciples how to recognize one another and have fellowship with many new friends in his Kingdom.
In this passage, Jesus explains to the twelve disciples, and to the crowds gathered with them, that a genuine disciple must "deny himself, take up your cross, and follow me," (v. 34). He says this in the context of his own path to Jerusalem and to the cross that awaits him there. So, any genuine Christian heeds this calling from the Lord to take "self" off the throne of our hearts and let Jesus be there; to embrace the path Jesus calls us to walk, which is often shamed by this world; and to stay the course to our last breath.
Even though the twelve disciples had the privileged access to Jesus that they had, they were not immune to the influence of Jesus' enemies. Though they want to follow him, still they have difficulty "getting" what Jesus and the Kingdom of God is all about.
Jesus' warning to them, "Beware the leaven of the Pharisees," is a warning to us, too. As long as we live in the present world, we are not immune to its antichristian influence. We must be careful to keep our minds and hearts full of the true word of the Lord, Jesus.
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.