Faith Rewarded Mark (5:21-43)

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Jesus loves faith!  He seems attracted to it, He delights in it and responds to it.  Faith is believing God when there isn’t anything to grasp onto, isn’t anything to see as yet.  Faith has a focus, an object and so you cannot have faith in nothing.  When it comes to God, the object, the focus of our faith is God Himself and His faithfulness, His ability to transform a situation, heal a person and faith that He wants to do so.  

In Mark 5:21-43 we meet an important Jewish man, named Jarius who had reached a point of faith in Jesus.  We don’t know what exactly his journey had been, we don’t know exactly what he had seen and heard of Jesus but he had seen or heard enough to believe that Jesus was both able and willing to respond to individual people’s requests.  And because of this faith, this synagogue ruler came to Jesus in front of a crowd of people and threw himself at Jesus’ feet, an action that showed his desperation, desire, humility and belief that Jesus could, even would heal his little daughter.

“Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.” (vs23)

What a statement of faith!  Effectively this man was saying; ‘Jesus I know that if you lay your hands on my little girl she will be healed of this life threatening condition.’  His confident faith is the reason he is in the dust and dirt before a crowd at Jesus’ feet.

Jesus seemingly can’t resist such faith.  Mark simply records; “And He (Jesus) went with him” (vs24).  As they go to his daughter the crowds are pressing in around Jesus, they too have some measure of expectation now – ‘what will Jesus do, let’s go and see’…

In the midst of the throng is another person with faith pulsating inside her which is remarkable really.  Remarkable because she has been repeatedly hopeful then frustrated and disappointed for 12 years with countless physicians at great financial cost attempting to help her but to no avail.  Now she is left impoverished with a condition that had worsened rather than improved (vs26).

But she had faith in Jesus.  Because she ‘had heard the reports about Jesus’ (vs27) and so she pushed through the crowd and touched Jesus’ garment believing that if she could only touch His garments she would be healed (vs28).

And in an instant she was dramatically and instantly healed, she felt it happen to her, and so did Jesus in the midst of the commotion of the crowd pressing around Him.  He stops and wants to meet the person who touched Him with faith…  She comes forward and Jesus says to her; “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” (vs34)  Jesus loves it when we trust Him, when we anchor our faith in Him, in His ability and in His willingness to transform our situations!

The passage concludes with Jesus going on to raise Jarius’ daughter from the dead as she passed away while He was enroute.  Jarius’ faith is rewarded, the woman’s faith is rewarded…

What do we learn from these encounters?  God loves faith!  

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God-Moments God Created (Mark 6:45-52)

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In Mark’s Gospel account, just after Jesus multiplied the five loaves and the two fish to feed the thousands, Jesus then encouraged the disciples to get into a boat and travel to the other side of the Sea of Galilee while He stayed to dismiss the crowd.

Jesus created this God-moment!  He did so by sending the disciples on before Him so that He could then walk by them on the water.  Why? 

Was it so that He could continue to answer their question recorded in Mark 4:41; “Who then is this; that even the wind and the sea obey him?” which had not yet fully answered by Him?

Do you ever get that feeling?  Like God has organised things, events, timing, meetings with people, conversations and there is more going on that what’s maybe visible on the surface…?  God does this all the time actually. 

Here in Mark 6, we get to observe from the outside – and so it is relatively easy to spot God’s hand in the circumstances.  However, it is not always so easy when we are in the thick of it.

Why did Jesus create these circumstances?  Jesus wanted His disciples to know Him, to know His deity, His power over creation and the laws of nature (multiplying food, walking on water, healing diseases…).  And so Jesus sent them ahead in a boat, fully intending always to catch them up by walking across the water, walking past them (vs48) so that they could see Him.

And when they do see Him, their first thought is not; “Hey Jesus!”  Their first thought is more like; “WHAT!  A Ghost!”  Aren’t you and I like that? 

We are all too often filled with fear not faith, doubt not delight.  If they had been on land they would have probably run for their lives, but they were captive on that boat, captive to the circumstances.  Sometimes we are in the midst of a circumstance God Himself has orchestrated but we don’t see God or His handiwork, we just see dimly and have a tendency to freak out like they did.

Jesus didn’t want to make them afraid, and God’s not playing with your emotions either.  And so, as soon as Jesus sees their fearful terrified response He spoke to them calling out to them; “Take heart, it is I.  Do not be afraid!”  

Friend, God is always with you, even when you can’t see Him obviously, even when you can’t feel His presence or hear His voice above the storm and the winds of life.  In those moments remember what God has promised; “never will I leave you and never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5) and “I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20)! 

So call out to Him, He is there and when you do call God will come rushing to you and will speak to you, comforting you as He comforted them with His words of affirmation, with His presence (Jesus climbed into the boat with them – vs51).

Just like the other storm which was calmed by Jesus authoritative words (Mark 4:35-41), this storm too suddenly abated and peace was restored.  The disciples are dumbstruck, they are in awe and wonder, astounded (vs51) at who Jesus really is – God almighty.

God arranges moments in our lives that will help us to see Him more clearly, moments that will demonstrate who He is to us in ways that no sermon or song could ever convey. 

So, next time there is something of a storm in your life, ask yourself whether God might be in the storm in some way?  Ask whether God might be wanting to reveal something more of Himself to you?  Call out to Jesus, He is there with you already, but He will come rushing to show Himself to you and to speak words that calm you just like He did for the disciples.  Trust Him that He can silence wind and calm waves with one whisper of His voice.  Worship Him, be amazed at Him, trust Him, grow in your love and knowledge of Him continually.  Amen.

Disqualified? Qualified! (John 4:1-45)

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Life is a sequence of many moments isn’t it? Yet not all moments are equal in their importance for our lives. Some of the moments in our lives are what one could call; ‘God-moments’. These are moments, which are often unexpected in which radical change can happen, faith can be birthed or strengthened, in which we can learn something new about ourselves, God or others.

Today, God wants to bless you. This devotion could be a God-moment in your life. God wants to bless you, to encounter you, change your view of Him, to change you, to pour His love into you, wants to heal and restore you…

Back to the story, this woman at the well is about to have an unexpected God-moment in her life as she comes to draw water at the well but finds Jesus there! After some interaction about Jesus’ thirst, Jesus’ offered her water that would satisfy her thirst forever, she then asked Jesus to give her this water so that she would never thirst again.

Jesus knowing everything about her, asks her about her husband, asks her to call him. She didn’t want to talk about these things, it’s too personal, she tries to cover up this sad aspect of her life. We are often like this woman aren’t we? At first she resisted God’s loving, kind advances, and she tries to hide from the King of Glory. But He’s all-knowing, He knows about all 5 of her previous husbands & He knows of her current sinful relationship with the man who is not her husband but whom she is with.

At this point you might expect Jesus to draw back. After-all, she has been exposed and it’s messy. Yet,
amazingly, graciously, God still pursues her as He pursues you and I. Amazingly, what God knows about you and I doesn’t cause Him to re-coil and run from us.

Yet Jesus stays with her keeps pursuing her in this moment and reveals to her that He is the Messiah (vs26). God accepts us as we are, warts and all, God wants to transform us from who we have been and who we are today into worshippers who will worship in Spirit and truth!

And so in this God-moment the woman has a revelation of God, a revelation of the grace, mercy & forgiveness of God. What she thinks about God, what she knows is re-written in a moment as God reveals His true character to her in this God-moment…

You might have thought that her past and her present disqualified this lady. And yet actually her mess strangely qualified her to speak to others about who God is and what God is like! Having slinked out of town to come and get water, ashamed, at a time when not many others would be there.

Having met Jesus though she runs back into town effectively shouting; ‘Come and see a man who told me everything that I ever did, I think He is God!’ This woman’s shame actually became her proof of who God is! Her shame was what qualified her to testify to who God is and what God is like. In that God-moment, her sin became her God-story of redemption which in turn then showed off the grace, love & mercy of God to her whole town.

In one sense, you and I can’t be entrusted by God to share with others about Him until we have received, encountered, grace from God towards us first. Receiving grace from God qualifies us to tell others about God’s grace and mercy.

God’s grace is that He accepts us, just as we are, warts and all. God accepts us not on the basis of our merit but on account of His goodness and His lavish grace and kindness to us in Jesus. Although Jesus knew every sordid thing about this woman, He still accepted her and forgave her! Jesus came to seek and save the lost, He didn’t come for those who think they’re doing just fine, stuck in their self-righteousness, He came for sinners like me, like you…?

The end of the story is amazing. One woman’s God-moment, one woman encountering Jesus as the God of grace, results in her sharing her God-story with her town so that Scripture then records that; “Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” (John 4:39)

So what are you ashamed of? What do you feel disqualifies you from being used by God, from being God’s agent for change, His channel of grace and blessing to people? Can your sin potentially actually become a God-story which ends up showing off the God of grace?

Ask Jesus to forgive you, to pour His grace and mercy into your life right now and then go and tell the world how great and good and loving Jesus is! Needing grace, doesn’t disqualify you, it qualifies you to share with others about the incredible grace and mercy and love of God.

Free at last! [Mark 1:21-28, Mark 5:1-20 & Luke 13:10-13]

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Three passages, three encounters that Jesus had with three different people who all had different struggles with the demonic realm.  The constant is Jesus Himself and that the result of each of the people struggling under some demonic influence or another, was that they were instantly freed by Jesus!

 There are two equal and opposite errors we tend to make regarding the demonic:

  1. We give the devil and his demonic minions too much focus, fascination and airtime 
  2. Or we effectively deny the existence of the devil and demonic influence

May we always be way more focused on Jesus and His glorious victory on the cross, focussed on His resurrection and the resultant victory in which He defeated sin, Satan and death and made a public spectacle of them (Colossians 2:13-15)!  You and I as believers have no need to remain in fear, we ought not remain in a state of being influenced by or even bound by demonic forces since Jesus is our Lord.

On the other hand, to deny or to ignore the reality of the existence of Satan and the demonic realm and its ability to influence believers is to foolishly ignore clear warnings and exhortations of Scripture and to potentially allow the enemy to keep impacting you or those you love.  

These three encounters in the Gospels are so helpful as they are all so different.  Because of this, together they help us to have a balanced understanding of the whole range of types & degrees of demonic influence (‘demon possessed’ is an unhelpful translation in the NIV Bible translation as it indicates total control and has no room for degrees of influence) that is evidenced in Scripture.

The Mark 1 man (subtle under the radar influence): It seems likely that this man was influenced by the demonic to a limited degree.  I say this because he was there in synagogue seemingly unbeknown to those around him, seemingly behaving himself in socially accepted ways, until he suddenly cried out because of Jesus’ presence!  He had a demonic presence influencing him but it was undetected until the man came into close proximity with Jesus.  There are lots of things we don’t know about how this influence worked itself out in his life, did he battle with fear, depression, a destructively low-self esteem, panic attacks…….?  We don’t know, but he is helpful to us in that Scripture is clear that he had some form of demonic influence in his life – and so his example helps us to see that some demonic influence could be ‘under the radar’ because it doesn’t appear too bad, or isn’t too socially obvious.  Are there maybe things we just accept as ‘normal’ or ‘this is who I am’ but in fact it is an area in which we as believers are just not free?  The great news is that one encounter with Jesus and this man was delivered and set free from that influence.

The Mark 5 man (overt control and intense demonic influence): This man probably fits your prior notion of what a person with a demonic influence would present like.  This is an extreme case of demonic influence, even a destructive one – the great news though is that one encounter with Jesus and this man is set free and left ‘clothed and in his right mind’ (Mark 5:15) – what a contrast to the description of him just moments sooner!  No demonic influence is beyond Jesus’ instant transformation.

The Luke 13 woman (sickness attributed to demonic influence):  Jesus healed many people of sickness and most times it was not attributed to demonic influence, it was just sickness as a result of the impact of the fall on all of humanity.  However, in Luke 13, Luke (a medical doctor) recorded very specifically that this woman’s ailment had its source as being spiritual not medical, “And behold, there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years.” (Luke 13:11)  Jesus Himself said; “ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” (Luke 13:16)  In our secular society and in the minds of many believers in the church today – her symptoms would not have been even considered as having a potential spiritual source!  But that is exactly what Jesus and what Scripture attributed her symptoms too a demonic influence.  The great news is that Jesus loosed the hold that this demonic influence had held over her body for these many years in an instant feeing her from her disability and the bondage brought from Satan (Luke 13:16).

Never be looking for a demon under every bush, never get fascinated with the demonic – be enamoured and amazed and secure because of Jesus.  But also never underestimate or deny the ability for demonic influence and the spiritual realm at work in lives, in minds, in bodies.  Know however that regardless of what influence their might be – we have been given all of Jesus’ authority to set people fee (Matthew 28:18-20) just like Jesus did.

The People around Jesus [Mark 2:1-12]

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Think about this setting described in Mark 2 and think about the various groups of people or individuals in the room that day and what they encountered of Jesus.  You know, how we see Jesus, what we think and believe  about Jesus in a large way determines what we will encounter of Jesus.

This moment recorded for us in Mark’s gospel is symptomatic of the types of responses that people tend to have to Jesus.  It is rare to find someone who has heard of Jesus who has no opinion regarding Him.  However, it’s those opinions that shape what people encounter of Jesus.  Praise God that Jesus is graciously reaches out and engages even with people who approach Him with hostility and unbelief.   Jesus came to seek and save the lost, came to die for and rescue His enemies – we see such a clear example of that in this passage.

So who was there with Jesus that day?  

There were;

  • Seekers who are curious and drawn to Jesus but who still have questions 
  • Skeptics scrutinizing everything through the lens of unbelief 
  • Physically sick and suffering people with varying degrees of faith and hope
  • Sinners stuck with the guilt and sin needing forgiveness & freedom  
  • Believers in Jesus delighting in Him

In one sense these groups of people are always around, when we are speaking to people about Jesus.  Whether that is in our everyday lives or even in any given Church meeting.  Consider quickly how each of these groups of people encountered Jesus on this day recorded for us in Mark 2;

  • Seekers: The gathered crowd that day must have had many like this.  They’d heard about Jesus, heard about his radical teachings, His displays of power and His love setting people free from demonic oppression and sickness.  That day they witnessed first hand that Jesus was willing to stop, to be interrupted for an individual.  They saw that Jesus is moved by faith (the faith of the four friends here) and that Jesus has authority to forgive sinners from their sin and to heal their physical sickness too. More than that they witnessed that Jesus was discerning, that He knew the hearts of everyone in the room and attempted to help the skeptical overcome their barriers to faith.  Seekers must have felt drawn closer to Jesus this day, we know this crowd dispersed amazed in the end saying things like; “we never saw anything like this!” (vs12)  May those who encounter Jesus in us, touch something of His love, His grace, His discernment, hear of His offer of forgiveness and encounter His power over sickness through us.
  • Skeptics:  Can you imagine this group on that day.  They’d probably decided before they even came  to the house what they thought!  Spurring each other on in their hardening towards Jesus, these fictitious fault finders were difficult and demeaning.  Such people love to group together and amplify each other’s skepticism closing their eyes and ears to the actual evidence before them misreading or reading into everything and reaching wrong conclusions.  Jesus knew they were there all along, and yet graciously He didn’t bounce them at the door.  Jesus didn’t even rebuke them, but conclusively and graciously He answered their gripes about His authority to forgive sin by showing that He also has authority to heal!  Did they go away believing?  We don’t know.  However, may you, may I like Jesus was be resolute and yet gracious with such people too.
  • Physically sick and suffering people: we don’t know how long the paralyzed man had suffered but we know that his suffering was so great that he either could not get himself to Jesus physically or he could not do so emotionally – having maybe lost all hope.  In an instant with one command of Jesus this man’s life is transformed for the better and the sickness that defined him was banished!  Jesus as King can heal anyone, at any time.  His words have power to suspend and rewrite the effects of the curse of the fall in a moment.  Let’s keep praying for people asking Jesus to say the word and to heal and restore people.   And let us note that this is a story that would not have happened had it not been for some friends who had faith that Jesus could heal and would want to heal their mate! Let’s be such friends for Jesus loved their faith and in the end of the day they might have even been as equally happy as the man who was healed.  This man’s encounter with Jesus resulted in a life-transformed!
  • Sinners: we all have the same sin problem.  The friends defined their brothers problem as physical, Jesus redefined it showing that in fact his greatest need was spiritual was the need to be forgiven of his sins.  We easily see the physical, emotional, financial needs of people, but all people’s greatest need is to have their sins forgiven by Jesus so that they can be restored to a right relationship with God.  And putting your faith in Jesus is the only way to be forgiven.  What right now feels like your greatest need?  What do you think Jesus would say is your greatest need right now?
  • Believers: the disciples and others who had already believed in Jesus must have grown in their faith, love and awe of in Jesus that day as they watched him authoritatively and yet graciously deal with the skeptics, respond to the friends act of faith and forgive and heal the paralyzed man!  They must have felt strengthened in their faith and conviction about who Jesus was!

These groups of people are not just on the pages of Scripture but are present in our everyday lives, present in our church meetings.  May we be like Jesus to them!

Jesus: The Lamb of God [John 1:29-34]

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Who is Jesus?  What did He come to do?

John the Baptist, on seeing Jesus walking by pronounces these amazing words dripping with revelation and meaning;

“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) 

To behold is to look, to see, to pause and observe someone or something that is especially of remarkable or impressive nature.  John saw who Jesus really was and saw His purpose on the earth and called people to stop and to consider Jesus.

Jesus is worthy of our stopping, worthy of our consideration, worthy of us giving time to meditate on this great mystery contained in these words; “the Lamb of God”.

In calling Jesus the ‘Lamb of God’, John was declaring that Jesus is the One who by His sacrificial death on the cross, will fulfil all the symbolism of the Passover lamb and other OT sacrifices (Genesis 22, Leviticus 1:1–5:19; 1 Corinthians 5:7; Ephesians 5:2; Hebrews 10:1–14).  In the OT, God’s people were delivered through the blood of a lamb that was sacrificed on their behalf.  

That sacrificial lamb in the OT, prefigured the coming of Jesus as the true Lamb of God, who lived a perfect spotless life (Hebrews 4:14-15) so that He could be sacrificed on our behalf, to forgive us for all sin for all time and to obtain final salvation for God’s people through his death, which in turn redeemed them from death, sin, and Satan (Colossians 1:13–14; Hebrews 2:14–15). 

And why do we need Jesus or anyone/anything to die for us?

Because we have all fallen short of the righteous requirements of God (Romans 3:23), everyone of us is in the same predicament.  We have sinned before God who is Holy.  But the good news John saw on that day was that Jesus came to take away the sin the world!  That’s the good news of the Gospel, that although we have all sinned, fallen short of God’s glory, we have a Saviour Jesus, who died in our place for our sin as the Scriptures say; 

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. (Romans 3:23-25)

How incredible it is, that God in whom their was no lack, no need , loved you and I so much that He was willing to make Himself the very sacrifice that would rescue us from our sin and from His holy wrath!  Behold the lamb of God.  Jesus is worthy of worship and adoration and praise forevermore.

Changed… [Matthew 4:18-22, John 1:35-51]

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Those who encounter Jesus are changed by Jesus!  In Matthew and John’s accounts, at least 7 people have an encounter with Jesus, and in each person’s case that encounter transformed their lives forever.  

Simon & Andrew were fishermen.  Fishing and sea was their livelihood, it was what they did.  They didn’t wake each morning wondering what to do, this was their income, it was even their defining identity.  But with just one encounter, hearing Jesus’ compelling and challenging words; “follow me” they immediately left their nets, left their livelihood, left their identities as fishermen all in order to respond to Jesus.  

Shortly thereafter, their business partners (James & John) similarly hear Jesus’ call to follow Him, and Scripture says that immediately they too left their nets, their identity, even their father and their servants (Mark 1:19) all to follow Jesus.  Luke records summarily, “they left everything and followed Him” (Luke 5:11).

The Gospel accounts don’t record much conversation really.  And yet Jesus was so compelling that when He called them to follow Him, they answered and they did so wholeheartedly!  Jesus redefined each of these four men.  They had been ‘doers’, fishermen, defined by their work.  Now they were in an instant defined as ‘followers’ of Jesus, new lives, new identity…  

What did they encounter in Jesus that caused this reaction?  

John’s account of the same events is full of revelation.  John exclaims; “Behold the Lamb of God” (John 1:35).  John in that moment has truly seen who the real Jesus is.  Having spent some time with Jesus, Andrew finds his brother exclaiming; ‘we have found the Messiah’ (vs41), likewise Philip finds Nathanael and says in effect; ‘we’ve found the one the whole Law and the Prophets speak of – the Messiah’ (vs45) and Nathanael himself cries out; “Son of God!  You are the King of Israel!” (vs49).  All these people encountered the real Jesus, the King of kings, the Messiah, the got it in those moments…

Those who encounter Jesus are changed by Jesus!

None of them are left unchanged.  Jesus changes their vocations, their identities, their relationships even their names!  Following Jesus must have been exhilarating yes but it also came at with a high cost, with risk even.  All these people have to leave things, people, what they knew for the unknown of following Jesus.  They all paid a price in some way or another, and we too will be called to leave or let go at times as we follow Jesus.  

Following Jesus was costly, following Jesus came with misunderstanding from others (imagine the thoughts, feelings and questions of the father of James and John’s, imagine their families, those who worked with them and those who knew them as fishermen…), and yet they never regretted it for a moment!

Those who truly encounter Jesus are transformed by Jesus.  In fact if your life is not being transformed, if you haven’t felt the call to leave certain things behind, you have to ask whether you’ve met the real Jesus yet?

Ask Jesus to reveal Himself to you again and again, in all His glory and majesty.

Hear His words to you; “Follow me”.

What do those words require from you right now today, at this moment in your life?

Is there anything you need to leave behind in order to follow Jesus wholeheartedly?