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sermon24-7 Mark8 Guide

Mark 8:13-21, theme verse Mark 8:21

The praise and honor and glory be to our heavenly Father who seeks true worshipers who worship Him with the Spirit and truth.

Today in the second Sunday of 2024, I pray that God may bless you all in His love, grace and blessings. Last week, after we reviewed the Gospel of Mark which start to proclaim “the beginning of Gospel of Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God”, we learned that the good news which Jesus brought was the good news that “The time comes and the kingdom of God arrived so that we have to repent and believe in that Gospel.” So, when Jesus appointed twelve apostles, He thought that He would send them to proclaim and teach the secret of the kingdom of God, but it seems to me that they did not satisfy Jesus’ expectation at first. So through this week’s texts, we would like to learn few lessons.

1)    First of all, we would like to see the historical background that the Gospel of Mark was written. Since around AD 33, when Jesus died on the cross, persecution of Christians has been increasing so that Christians had to leave Jerusalem and dispersed all over the world to avoid this persecution. Meanwhile, they were economically devastated by the threefold taxes: tribute to Roman Empire, tax to the tetrarch like Herod, and also tithe to the high priest. Also, in the midst of all these challenges, when a great fire broke out in Rome in AD 64, the Roman emperor, Nero, spread out rumors that Christians set the fire, wanting to divert the public sentiment and  then began to further persecute and kill Christians. So when Peter was martyred, Christians hid themselves in the underground church, I mean, in the catacombs, to keep their faith. However, when the captured Christians leaked information about the underground church while being tortured, they had to see dozens of their fellow Christians were captured together, thrown into the lions' den, or executed, so that they had to live in such anxiety and fear without any bright future for them.

2)    In this situation, around AD 68-70, just before Jerusalem was invaded by Rome and destroyed in AD 70, Mark who recognized the need to write down a record for Jesus’ ministries and teachings, since the apostles were martyred one by one, wrote the Gospel of Mark to comfort and encourage Roman Christians in Rome. And in this Gospel of Mark, Mark said that just as Jesus Christ came to this earth to obey to God's will, was betrayed by his disciple, suffered, and was crucified, Christians who follow Jesus also could suffer, so that Christians had to keep their faith even in the midst of the persecutions as this was the theme of the Gospel of Mark.

3)    So, after proclaiming that “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God,” in the chapter 1 and verse 1, Mark recorded that Jesus proclaimed that “The Time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God arrived so repent and believe in the gospel” and then not only casted out the demons and raised the sick; even cleansed the lepers and raised the paralytic even with forgiving sins, but also fed five thousand men, I mean, around twenty thousand people including women and children.

4)    So, all the Israelites were very amazed as he wrote in chapter 1:21-28 that when Jesus taught about the Kingdom of God, they were amazed at His authoritative teaching and also at His authority to case out the demons by His words, and also in 5:21-34, he recorded the incident that when a woman was healed by Jesus’ healing power from her bleeding for twelve years, just through touching his cloak in faith, so as Jesus realized that His power had gone out asked “Who touched my clothes?”, she, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at His feet and trembling with fear, told Him the whole truth.

5)    Anyhow, I think this reaction was natural for the crowd, who could not understand the secrets of the kingdom of God that Jesus explained through parables, but then could the religious leaders at that time understand this secret? Even though the scribes or the religious leaders at that times, as those in charge of God’s words and its interpretation, clearly knew that Isaiah 9:6 says that to them, a child would be born, to them a Son would given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, in Mark 2:1-12, they thought that it was blasphemy to see Jesus proclaiming the forgiveness of sins while healing the paralyzed man and also in Mark 3:1-6, it is said that when the Pharisees saw Jesus healing a man with a withered hadn on the Sabbath, they went out and discussed with the Herodians how to kill Jesus. Through these facts that we can clearly know that even the religious leaders of that time who were well versed in the Old Testament did not really understand who the Messiah was. Looking at this fact, we can clearly see that the fact that someone knows well what the Bible says does not guarantee the knowing and understanding of the secrets of God's kingdom, yet only those who received the grace of the Holy Spirit and was regenerated by the Holy Spirit can understand and enter it.

6)    Then, how was His twelve apostles? Even though Jesus appointed twelve whom Jesus also named apostles so that they can preach out the gospel and build the kingdom of God by casting out demons. But, it seems to me that they did not satisfy Jesus’ expectation, without understand the secret of the kingdom of God. Today’s text follows the incident that when the Pharisees came and began to argue with Jesus, seeking a sign from heaven to test him, Jesus sighed deeply in his spirit and said “Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation” when Jesus moved to a district of Dalmanutha after He fed again 4000 men, 15000 people including women and children with seven loaves and two fishes in a gentile region. Then after He got into boat to move to the otherside, Jesus said, “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod”. But, His disciples thought that Jesus rebuked them after knowing they forget to bring the bread. So, Jesus rebuked them saying, “Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear?” reminding them Jesus fed five thousand with five loaves and four thousand with seven loaves and said again, “Do you not yet understand?”

7)    But, this incident is not only one, I mean, In Chapter 6, when He first gave them the authority to cast out the demons and sent them on a mission trip to various places, the disciples went out and preached out the repentance, casting out the demons and healing many sick people by anointing them with oil. But, after in Mark 9, it is recored that when a father brought a demon-possessed child to the disciples, their faith was weakened so that they could not cast out the demons, so Jesus scolded them, saying, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you?” And after He casted out the demon and taught his disciples that they had to pray since the demons can be casted out through prayers. Also, although they abandoned their families and their homes to  follow Him, after knowing that Jesus was Messiah, in Chapter 4, when they were crossing the Sea of Galilee with the Lord and a violent storm broke out, even though they tried to control the boat by themselves, but when it did not work, their faith was weakened and they became afraid and woke up Jesus, who was sleeping in the stern. Then the Lord got up and rebuked the wind and commanded the sea to be still, and then when they saw the wind stopped and the storm calmed down, they were all amazed and even trembled with fear, yet, still they did not deeply understand the fact that Jesus, who had come as the Messiah, was the Son of God.

8)    Even in chapter 8, when Jesus foretold them about his suffering, death, and resurrection for His redemptive ministry, Peter, who had just confessed that Jesus was the Christ, rebuked Jesus not to do that. So, Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on things of God, but on the things of man.” And then the second time Jesus spoke of his death and resurrection, they did not understand again, and even the third time he told them about it, James and John asked “When the Lord ascended to the throne of glory, they asked to be placed in the highest position.” So Jesus rebuked them, saying, “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant.”

9)    And then when Jesus was caught, even Peter was warned by Jesus that he would deny Jesus three times, but in the end, Peter denied Jesus three times, even with cursing him, and then ran away, and all the other disciples also ran away. And also even though Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome who loved Jesus a lot, followed him to the hill of Golgotha, when they went to anoint Jesus in the tomb with spices and Angel said that Jesus was resurrected and went to Galilee so that they told the disciples to go to Galilee and see Jesus, the women were so frightened so that they fled from the tomb trembling and could not say anything out of fear. Likewise, the disciples at first did not understand the meaning of Jesus' becoming as the Messiah, and either his kingdom of God, or his earthly ministry, and his atonement work on the cross, because I think the fact that the Son of God, also who is God too, came on earth and brought the kingdom of God is not so easy to understand.

10) Through today's passage, we would like to learn few things. First, even though I think that it was a natural reaction to the divine appearance of the Messiah, I mean, on the one hand, they strongly desired to receive the divine grace to cast out the demons, heal their sickness, and feed from divine provision, yet on the other hand, they were very amazed or even fearful. But, it is very said that these people who witnessed these amazing things and received the benefits from Him, cried to crucify Jesus, when Jesus was captured by the chief priests and handed over to Pilate for His redemptional work for them, as the chief priests were urged. Therefore, I believe that indeed seeing miracles and signs is different from recognizing Jesus as the Messiah and believing and following Him. That’s why Jesus said in Luke 16, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead” when the rich man who had enjoyed only the good things in life and then ended up in hell saw Lazarus, who had been living as a beggar in front of his house, gone to heaven and the rich man begged to send Lazarus to testify to his brothers so that they would not come to this place of suffering. And then secondly we would like to know why Mark explicitly recorded the disciples’ faithlessness, foolishness, and stupidity in the first Gospel, the Gospel of Mark. The first reason is that around AD 64-70, when the persecution of Christians reached its peak, while they hid themselves in the underground, they felt extreme confusion, anxiety and fear so that  it was very difficult for the Christians in Rome to take up their cross to follow Jesus and even their faith was weakened. Although, in their view, the twelve apostles who now became leaders of the early church had very strong faith enough to endure even martyrdom, but in the beginning, they confess that they did not understand the gospel of God, to the Christians in Rome, who had to become food for lions because they were Christians, while living in the catacombs, underground tombs in the wilderness, and did not yet understand the reason for suffering, and also doubted whether the kingdom of God could be established and advanced through their suffering, Mark tried to encourage that this is the secret of the kingdom of God as Jesus explained even though they were sawn as small as a mustard seed, yet when it sprouted, grew, then they could become like a big tree so that all the birds in the air took a nest on it. Therefore, Mark exhorted them to endure their sufferings with faith then they could  harvest great fruits in the kingdom of God. And secondly, in fact, since disciples who follow the path of Jesus must not only carry their cross, but also have to go through a process of self-denial, so the apostles who were now being martyred on the cross following Jesus’ way, in the beginning, relying on their own wisdom and strength, so that they confessed that they experienced failure. Yet through such failures, they became to deny themselves, rely more on God’s grace and then finally they could bear the cross as Jesus did with the power of God so Mark exhorted Christians in Rome that they could get the victory by the power of God after being humble and meek through these hardships. I pray that in this new year of 2024, we may follow Jesus, denying ourselves more while taking our own cross after depending more onto God’s grace and power being humbled through the persecution and hardships.

Key Questions as Small Group Activity

Q1 In today’s text, we can find three types of peoples, I mean, while they pursued their own comfort and earthly blessings, when Jesus went toward Golgotha for His vicarious atonement ministry, there were the peoples who turned and shouted “Crucify Him.” And then there were the religious leaders who at first they doubted Jesus was the Messiah to check the signs, yet when Jesus challenged their tradition, faith and religion, finally they crucified the Son of God. But there were also His disciples, who at first did not understand the secret of the kingdom of God and their faith was weak, but after experiencing failure in their effort and wisdom, becoming humble to depend more onto God’s grace and power so that in the end, they became to follow even the cross of martyrdom to follow Jesus’ way. After checking where we are, I hope you can share your thought with grace each other.

Q2 As our Lord says that the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, yet after being planted and sprouted and grown up, then they become a great tree in which all the birds in the air can take their nests on it, the seeds of Gospel which was planted in disciples’ heart, became to grow to stand in the place of martyrdom, after grown up, to be the leaders of the church, who rely more onto God’s grace and power after the hardships and failures. I hope after checking who we are now, and what kinds of God’s grace is working in us now, you can share your thought each other.

Love you. Thank you. God bless you.

Prayer Note

Dear ( God’s attribute which you found Today ) God!

Thanks for ( something you received through the sermon or  even during the week )

Praise, gratitude and glory be to You, Lord!

Today, I realized my sin (pains) that ( the sin God reminded through the sermon ),

please forgive (or heal) me and help me not to repeat ( the sins you recognized   ).

I learned that ( something you learned through the sermon                                    )

Please help me to live in that (  learned way of life                                                )

I pray in ( Jesus’ attribute you find ) Jesus’ name. Amen.

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