Backwards and Upside-Down

mark_case_for_jesus_logoJesus continues His training of the disciples by reorienting them to the Kingdom. The worldly way of seeing the world and navigating life in it is upside-down and backwards from the Kingdom: last is first, die to live, deny self to gain, become like a child.

In the beginning of Mark 10, Jesus is confronted by the Pharisees about a theological debate in hopes of trapping Him. They hope however Jesus answers, He’ll paint Himself into a corner that will result in at least discrediting Him, if not having Him killed. They ask about legitimate divorce.

Jesus avoids the trap and points them back to the creation and institution of marriage, holding it up not as a disposable accessory but a God-given gift and treasure.

Notes from Mark 9:30-50

Notes and Audio from Mark 10:1-16

I Can See Clearly Now (Mark 8:22-33)


Mark 8 is the center of the Second Gospel, both mathematically (16 total chapters) and thematically. Mark is built around the structure of confessing who Jesus is: the Messiah, the Son of God (1:1), the Messiah (8:29), and the Son of God (15:39).

Mark carefully constructs his Gospel to highlight this central confession by including a unique story of healing a blind man. This is the only occasion where Jesus performs a “two-stage” healing; the man’s sight is partially restored at first, then perfectly restored at last. This man’s healing is intended to be a parable of what is happening to the disciples: their vision of who Jesus is has been blurry until now, but with Peter’s confession their sight clears and they accept that He not 0nly brings the Kingdom, but is Himself the King.

Their acceptance of Jesus’ identity as the promised King and Messiah doesn’t mean they understand everything, however. Jesus moves on to the next phase of their education: He tells them openly that He as Messiah must be rejected, killed, and raised. Peter in his ignorance rebukes Jesus, who rebukes Peter’s rebuke just as forcefully. The Messiah’s path is necessarily the path of suffering and death, because it is necessarily the path of resurrection.

Notes and audio are available here.

Not by Bread Alone (Mark 8:1-21)

mark_case_for_jesus_logoMark 8:1-21 is the culmination of what began in Mark 7. Mark 7 began with Jesus’ clarification and correction of the intent and purpose of the Old Testament purity laws. Mark 7 ends with Jesus practicing what He preaches by healing so-called “unclean” Gentiles whose faith in Him made them truly clean, unlike the externally “clean” Pharisees whose hearts were filthy with unbelief.

Mark 8 begins with the Gentile version of the feeding of the 5,000: 4,000 Gentiles are miraculously fed in the wilderness by Jesus, just as the Jews had been in chapter 6. The promise to the Syrophoenician mother is reinforced: the Gospel is indeed for the Gentiles, and the dogs will no longer beg for crumbs but be welcomed to sit at the Messiah’s table as joint-heirs of the Kingdom and the promise to Abraham.

Then, Jesus reinforces to the still-dense disciples that the Pharisees’ hard-heartedness is the real uncleanness to avoid. He has more than proven His ability to provide for His people’s physical needs, but the tenderness of heart that receives God’s Word is of far greater and lasting value than a free meal.

Notes and audio are available here.

Practicing What He Preaches


Mark 7 begins with another confrontation between Jesus and the Pharisees, this time over ritual cleanness and uncleanness. The Pharisees take issue with Jesus’ neglect of traditional rituals (things added to the Scriptures, not things commanded by the Scriptures). Jesus clarifies what had been obscured by the Pharisees’ traditions: cleanness and uncleanness are a matter of the heart, not kosher food or ritual handwashing.

See notes and audio here.

Mark 7 ends with Jesus in Gentile country dealing with so-called “unclean” people. What He has been preaching, now He puts into practice. The faith of the Syrophoenician widow shows that her heart is clean—because she has faith in Jesus—while the Pharisees are unclean—because they refuse to have faith in Jesus.

The healing of the deaf and mute man is a story unique to Mark that highlights the theme and purpose of the Second Gospel: Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. He is the One who spoke and all creation sprang forth from nothing; He is the one who formed Adam from the dust of the earth. Here in Mark 7, He is the One who fixes what sin has broken: He commands (“Be opened!”) and touches his ears and tongue. Genesis 1 ends with God’s approval of all He had made; Mark 7 ends with the people’s approval of Jesus’ works, “He has done everything well!”

See notes and audio here.

Homecoming and Outgoing

mark_case_for_jesus_logoIn Mark 6:1-13, we see Jesus come home to Nazareth (6:1-6) and send the disciples on a short-term mission trip in the area (6:7-13).

Jesus’ reception in Nazareth is painfully hostile. Having grown up there, the Nazarenes are so familiar with the Jesus they think they know (“Isn’t this the carpenter?”) that they miss the Jesus who stands before them.

Jesus then sends the Twelve out into the surrounding region to preach, heal, and cast out demons. His instructions are counterintuitive, to say the least: they are to go with no provisions, trusting the providence of God and not themselves. Jesus also prepares them for how to respond when they are treated as He was in Nazareth.

Notes and audio are available (Part 1 and Part 2).

Upping the Ante (Mark 5:21-43)

mark_case_for_jesus_logoJesus returns from the Decapolis to Capernaum, where a huge crowd surrounds Him (as usual). A synagogue leader named Jairus breaks through the crowd and falls down before Jesus, begging Him to come and heal his daughter, who is at the point of death. On the way to his house, Jesus stops to heal a woman who had been hemorrhaging for 12 years.

Before they could get underway again, news came that Jairus’ daughter had died. Undeterred (as usual), Jesus pressed on and raised the little girl from the dead.

This passage finishes a section that started in Mark 4:35, where Jesus faces progressively stronger opposition: a storm on the lake, a legion of demons, a 12-year unclean hemorrhage, and then death itself. It is as though the stakes are raised each time, yet each time Jesus proves Himself Lord in them all.

Who else could command storms, armies of demons, disease, and death itself? Who else would be obeyed by them? Who then is this Man, but the Christ, the Son of God?

Notes and audio are available here.

Mega-Storm, Mega-Calm, Mega-Fear

mark_case_for_jesus_logoMark 4 ends with a well-known event in Jesus’ ministry: the calming of the storm on the Sea of Galilee. The Authorized Version’s “Peace, be still” is hard to beat for its force and poetic beauty.

Mark uses the word “great” (Greek mega, which is where we get our use of it) three times in these verses: a mega-storm, then a mega-calm, and then a mega-fear.

“Who then is this?” Is the most important question to answer, and to answer correctly. He who shepherds storms shepherds His sheep; He is both tender and terrifying.

Notes and audio are available here.

Everyday, Common Comparisons

mark_case_for_jesus_logoJesus continues to teach in parables after the famous Parable of the Sower and Soils. He uses common, everyday items from the household (lamps and measuring baskets) before returning to the farmers’ fields to illustrate the nature of God’s Kingdom.

Jesus is the Lamp that shines in the darkness of this world, illuminating the hearts of everyone. He reveals the truth of who we are and our need for Him, and we respond by doubling down on darkness or by repenting and believing the Good News (Mark 1:15).

The work of God in changing our hearts from hardened soil or weedy, thorny, rocky soil to good, fruit-bearing soil is a mystery to us. We are like the farmer who sows the fields and goes to bed. The seed sprouts, but he doesn’t know when or how. So it is with the work of God in the hearts of people where the Word of God is sown.

Notes and audio are available here.

Seed and Soils

mark_case_for_jesus_logoHaving begun the discussion about Jesus’ parables—and the Parable of the Soils in particular—we next discussed the parable itself.

The parable is not one of command, but description. Or, to use the common phrase, it’s about indicatives, not imperatives. We are not to read this parable and immediately say, “I need to be good soil” or “I need to stop being shallow, rocky soil” or “You need to stop being thorny, weedy soil.” The secrets of the Kingdom are given, not deciphered or discovered (4:10-12).

This parable is a picture of what God’s reign as King looks like. He is generous with His word, giving it even to those who refuse to hear it. He is still King over all, not just those who believe Him.

Notes and audio are available here.