Through The New Testament, Week 7: Mark Chapters 3-7





Jesus in Capernaum chapters 2-3, continued

A group of eighth graders were asked why people wanted to kill Jesus, who was clearly non-violent and much weaker than his enemies. One child volunteered, “Because he always told the truth. Truth upsets people.” We can look at the first six verses of Mark 3 with that insight in mind.

A major theme of Mark is how people respond to Jesus. He tells many times of the crowds who gather. Verses 7-12 show us that Jesus’ popularity is growing. This crowd even includes people from outside of Palestine—Tyre and Sidon were coastal cities northwest of Galilee.

Perhaps the growing crowds is one reason Jesus now chooses his disciples. It appears he was often in danger from the press of those seeking help.  Mountains have a particular significance in scripture as places of prayer and divine revelation. Mark views the twelve as specially commissioned to accompany Jesus and share his mission.

Jesus returns to Capernaum, and he is besieged by such a crowd that he is stuck in the house, unable to even reach food. Two groups speak against him. His own family fears he has lost his mind and come to take him away. Religious leaders from Jerusalem also come and accuse him of casting out demons through the power of Satan. In biblical times, those who were disrupting the societal norms were often accused of using magic. Jesus’ saying about the Holy Spirit shows what is really at stake in his debate with the religious leaders; the truth about the saving power of God at work in the ministry of Jesus.           Jesus is finally told that his family is stuck outside and wishes to see him. He replies by redefining family as those who do the will of God. For the Christians for whom Mark was writing this statement was important.

Parables of the Kingdom chapter 4

The first extended speech by Jesus in Mark consists of several parables. Collectively these can be looked at as earth parables. In the parable of the sower, the actions in the parable correspond to characters, groups, or actions in the narrative of the Gospel as a whole. It is designed to be fairly easy to understand, and seems to be the key to all of Jesus’ parables. Faced with the difficulties of maintaining a vibrant faith community in today’s world, many begin to wonder whether the effort is worth it. This parable provides encouragement for those darker moments. The world of the gospel is not too weak for the job. Loss has been part of the process from the beginning. Despite the vigorous opposition to the word, it still yields a rich harvest.

The focus of the parable of the lamp is secrets. The purpose of secrets, like the purpose of lamps is to bring light; secrets are intended to be revealed when the time is right. The focus of the parable of the mustard seed focuses on the earth. The tiny seed can only become a great bush when it is sown upon the earth.

When we see the disciples showing a lack of trust in God’s power working through Jesus and even accusing Jesus of not caring, we are challenged to examine our own faith. Merely repeating the confession that Jesus is Son of God means little if Jesus does not represent God for us. Do we let the suspicion that God does not really care what happens to us corrode our religious life?

Healings Around the Sea of Galilee chapter 5

Jesus travels to Gentile territory in the first 20 verses of chapter 5. He encounters a man who has been driven away from all human contact. The story pits Jesus against the breakdown of every civilizing and humanizing power. Some of the mentally ill homeless persons who exhibit violent behavior evoke the same fear and repulsion in people today that the man in the story must have inspired. When the man was healed he progressed from the non-human life of a rabid animal to that of a person with a home and friends. But rather than return home he now has a new mission: to let others know that God’s healing power can overcome the worst evils in human experience. Jesus then returns to Jewish territory where Mark tells of two healings; a woman who has been hemorrhaging for twelve years and Jairus’s daughter. The woman was ritually impure and an outcast. Jairus was wealthy and held a position of honor as head of the synagogue. Because Jesus was delayed by the nameless woman, Jairus’s daughter dies, but Jesus tells him to have faith. The faith of both the woman and Jairus were important in the outcome of the stories.

Jesus Teaches chapters 6:1-8:26

The idea of faith continues in 6:1-6. Jesus goes to his home town but does no miracles because of their lack of faith. Beginning in verse seven, the disciples begin to participate in Jesus’ ministry.   Mark then inserts a description of the murder of John the Baptist, indicating that Herod feared that Jesus was actually John resurrected from the dead. Jesus’ activities have now gained the attention of the Roman authorities. We return to the disciples in 6:30. When they return from their missionary journeys, Jesus takes them to a secluded spot to rest, but the crowds are so hungry to hear Jesus’ words that they follow without thinking about such necessities as food. Jesus proclaimed the gospel to the crowd but he also had compassion and provided for their needs. We should consider this passage a blueprint for our ministry today.

The story of the stormy sea parallels the story in chapter 4: in both the disciples do not fully understand Jesus’ power.

The issues raised by the debate of the purification rites and kosher food are not about the rituals themselves. The Israelite community needed to remember that it was different from other nations in order to preserve its faith in God. The issue is sanctimonious observance of one thing while disregarding God’s guidance about other, more important things. We Christians often find it easier to follow any number of ritual practices than to allow God to transform our hearts.

Jesus then goes into Gentile territory where he heals a child. Note that when Jesus realizes that the woman’s argument is stronger than his own, he grants her request. He then returns to Jewish territory where he heals a deaf man. Both in the Jewish and in the Gentile regions Jesus’ reputation continues to grow.


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Day 10: Saturday, February 20

journeyJourney with Jesus. Read Matthew, Mark, Luke or John from beginning to end during Lent and journey with him from the manger to the empty grave.



This post is part of the Days of Lent Spiritual Practices activity.  You can join in any time.  See more about the practices and each days activity here.

Day 9: Friday, February 19

joyful-noiseMake a joyful noise to the Lord. Make music by singing a song you have memorized or put on a CD and sing along. Let your voice praise God.



This post is part of the Days of Lent Spiritual Practices activity.  You can join in any time.  See more about the practices and each days activity here.

Day 8: Thursday, February 18

ignloyPractice the Daily Examen. One of the long-established spiritual practices in Christianity, championed by Ignatius of Loyola (a Spanish reformer and contemporary of John Calvin, who sought to reform the Roman church from within), is a discipline of self-examination and repentance Ignatius called examen. For more information:


This post is part of the Days of Lent Spiritual Practices activity.  You can join in any time.  See more about the practices and each days activity here.

Day 7: Wednesday, February 17

What's Cooking NH DinnerCome to Neighborhood Dinner at 5:00. Sit and converse with someone you do not know. Open your mind and heart to embrace those at the table.



This post is part of the Days of Lent Spiritual Practices activity.  You can join in any time.  See more about the practices and each days activity here.