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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

Month

August 2017

Daily Bible thoughts 1471: Monday 7th August 2017: Mark 2:23-28: He is Lord.

Mark 2:23-28: He is Lord.

“23 One Sabbath Jesus was going through the cornfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some ears of corn. 24 The Pharisees said to him, ‘Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?’  25 He answered, ‘Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? 26 In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.’  27 Then he said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.’” NIV UK

‘The ritualistic demands the outward, the conventional, the ancient usage of the past. Christ says the needs of man, whether of body or of soul, are greater than ceremonial restriction.’ F.B. Meyer: ‘Devotional Commentary,’ p.422.

Jesus surely never made a more shocking, or clearer, statement of His divinity than here in (28). Only God is ‘’…Lord…of the Sabbath.’’ Only He has the right to say how His day should be used. Who then is Jesus? The answer is pretty obvious.

The Sabbath was certainly meant to be a blessing to man and not a burden. In calling Himself ‘’the Son of Man’’ Jesus was using a Messianic term from the Book of Daniel. As the Messiah, He had the right to say what was appropriate behaviour for the Sabbath. (The Pharisees probably considered the disciples to be working – ‘harvesting’ – on the Sabbath day).

Jesus ‘doesn’t deny that the disciples are out of line with traditional Sabbath observance, but he pleads special circumstances and Scriptural precedent. He puts himself on a par with King David in the period when David, already anointed by Samuel but not yet enthroned (because Saul was still king), was on the run, gathering support, waiting for his time to come. That’s a pretty heavy claim: the implication is that Jesus is the true king, marked out by God (presumably in his baptism) but not yet recognised and enthroned. He therefore has the right, when he and his people are hungry, to by-pass the normal regulations. In other words, this kind of sabbath-breaking, so far from being an act of casual or wanton disobedience, is a deliberate sign, like the refusal to fast: a sign that the King is here, that the kingdom is breaking in…’ Tom Wright: ‘Mark for everyone,’ pp.27, 28.

Daily Bible thoughts 1470: Friday 4th August 2017: Mark 2:18-22: ‘When you fast…’

Mark 2:18-22: ‘When you fast…’

18 Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, ‘How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?’  19 Jesus answered, ‘How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. 20 But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast.  21 ‘No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. 22 And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.’ NIV UK

 Don’t take today’s reading as saying, ‘You’re off the hook with regard to fasting.’ It very much is not saying that, and fasting remains an important discipline for Christians. What this section of Mark does show, however, is that there are ‘seasons’ in life. Jesus spoke of Himself as ‘’the bridegroom’’ (20), and said that fasting would be inappropriate while He was with the disciples. ‘’But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast’’ (20). We are now living ‘between the times.’ The ‘’bridegroom’’ has gone from us, and until He returns we are in the season for fasting.

In His sermon on the mount, Jesus said to the disciples, ‘’When you fast…’’ (Matthew 6:16). He also said: ‘’…when you give…when you pray…’’ (Matthew 6:2,5). He did not say if but when. He assumed His followers would fast. When we read the book of Acts, we get glimpses that fasting still played a part in their life together (13:2,3; 14:23). No one can pretend that denying self, mortifying the flesh with fasting, is easy, but those who take the discipline seriously know that fasting, in the purposes of God, seems to open doors into powerful realities. Someone put it like this: ‘Fasting multiplies prayer power.’ That statement is not in the Bible, but I would imagine that those with any experience of Christian fasting will relate to it.

At the same time, though, we all need to be aware of legalism – of trying to impose man-made rules on ourselves or others. Real Christianity cannot be contained within such a framework and must burst out of it. The people pointing the finger at Jesus’s disciples for not fasting at this time were in the wrong. Our passage makes this clear. So let’s be very careful

Daily Bible thoughts 1469: Thursday 3rd August 2017: Mark 2:13-17: Eyes to see.

Mark 2:13-17: Eyes to see.

“13 Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. 14 As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow me,’ Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.  15 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: ‘Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?’  17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but those who are ill. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’” NIV UK

I saw a moving piece on ‘TBN’ the other day – the story of a man from Las Vegas, who came from a terrible background. Tragically, he grew up feeling unloved and unwanted. He ended up abusing drugs and became homeless. One day, he met some Christians and one of the lady workers at the church he found himself in wanted to give him a hug. ‘You mustn’t,’ he protested, ‘I smell awful.’ She answered that she was not aware of any bad odour and she hugged him all the same. It was the beginning of a turnaround for him. Today he has a food pantry for people in Las Vegas who are on the streets. He drives a bus, and takes food to them. It’s all done in Jesus’ Name. It strikes me that those Christian women who reached out to him in the first place saw him through different eyes, and he now sees the outcasts of society with an alternative vision also.

How do we see people? We have had cause to reflect on this point recently.                      ‘’As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth’’ (14a). Most of Jesus’ Jewish contemporaries would merely have seen someone to despise. Tax collectors were hated because they worked for the Romans. They were seen as collaborators with the oppressing forces. Furthermore, they creamed off a a nice slice of money for themselves. Jesus, however, saw this man differently. He recognised in him a future disciple and gospel writer. Jesus also had eyes to see loveliness in the other characters who gathered at Levi’s house (15).                                                                           ‘’When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the ‘’sinners’’ and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: ‘’Why does he eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?’’ (16). They didn’t see people as Jesus did. This led to the correctional statement in (17). We live in a world that often wants us to label and victimise people; to ostracise them as if unworthy of our love and attention. Jesus pointed out that He just saw people with the eyes of a Doctor. He saw them as ‘’sick’’ and in need of His services; and He couldn’t help them by holding His nose and keeping His distance. If the Doc is going to administer a cure, he has to come close. Jesus didn’t set up a telephone advisory clinic.

The irony is that the Pharisees thought they were ‘in the pink’, and did not realise that they were in a terminal condition. They couldn’t see people as Jesus did, and they were blinded to their own true state.

PRAYER: Again Lord, I need to ask you to give me the grace to see people with your eyes and to feel for them with your heart.

Daily Bible thoughts 1469: Thursday 3rd August 2017: Mark 2:13-17: Eyes to see.

Mark 2:13-17: Eyes to see.

13 Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. 14 As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow me,’ Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.  15 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: ‘Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?’  17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but those who are ill. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’ “NIV UK

I saw a moving piece on ‘TBN’ the other day – the story of a man from Las Vegas, who came from a terrible background. Tragically, he grew up feeling unloved and unwanted. He ended up abusing drugs and became homeless. One day, he met some Christians and one of the lady workers at the church he found himself in wanted to give him a hug. ‘You mustn’t,’ he protested, ‘I smell awful.’ She answered that she was not aware of any bad odour and she hugged him all the same. It was the beginning of a turnaround for him. Today he has a food pantry for people in Las Vegas who are on the streets. He drives a bus, and takes food to them. It’s all done in Jesus’ Name. It strikes me that those Christian women who reached out to him in the first place saw him through different eyes, and he now sees the outcasts of society with an alternative vision also.

How do we see people? We have had cause to reflect on this point recently.

‘’As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth’’ (14a). Most of Jesus’ Jewish contemporaries would merely have seen someone to despise. Tax collectors were hated because they worked for the Romans. They were seen as collaborators with the oppressing forces. Furthermore, they creamed off a a nice slice of money for themselves. Jesus, however, saw this man differently. He recognised in him a future disciple and gospel writer. Jesus also had eyes to see loveliness in the other characters who gathered at Levi’s house (15).

‘’When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the ‘’sinners’’ and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: ‘’Why does he eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?’’ (16). They didn’t see people as Jesus did. This led to the correctional statement in (17). We live in a world that often wants us to label and victimise people; to ostracise them as if unworthy of our love and attention. Jesus pointed out that He just saw people with the eyes of a Doctor. He saw them as ‘’sick’’ and in need of His services; and He couldn’t help them by holding His nose and keeping His distance. If the Doc is going to administer a cure, he has to come close. Jesus didn’t set up a telephone advisory clinic.

The irony is that the Pharisees thought they were ‘in the pink’, and did not realise that they were in a terminal condition. They couldn’t see people as Jesus did, and they were blinded to their own true state.

PRAYER: Again Lord, I need to ask you to give me the grace to see people with your eyes and to feel for them with your heart.

Daily Bible thoughts 1468: Wednesday 2nd August 2017: Mark 2:1-12: Roof-moving faith.

Mark 2:1-12: Roof-moving faith.

” A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralysed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralysed man, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’  Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, ‘Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?’  Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, ‘Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to this paralysed man, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Get up, take your mat and walk”? 10 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.’ So he said to the man, 11 ‘I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.’ 12 He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this!’” NIV UK

In the revival in Ulster in the mid 1800’s, church buildings were regularly so full that services had to be taken outside. That has been a common feature of Holy Spirit inspired movements in church history. On this occasion in the gospel ‘’…the people heard that he had come home’’ (1), and the venue was overflowing (2).Tom Wright suggests that this may have been Jesus’ own home in Capernaum. I make the observation that there is something magnetic about the presence of Jesus. At the heart of every revival you will find this essential reality, that people know that Jesus is present in His church. They know that they will meet Him if they go to church, and they will hear Him speak (2). He is the draw; He’s the reason why people come along in droves. It’s not because someone put some glossy publicity material in their hands, showing the face of a good looking preacher.  The central message Jesus brings is about forgiveness of sins and a right relationship with God (5, 6, 9 and 10). In a sense, we are all paralysed by guilt. We are lame. We have done wrong and we are not what God made us to be. We all need to hear the word of absolution pronounced over our lives by the Lord Himself. Then other people will look on in amazement as they see the changes He makes in us (12), and God will get the glory He alone deserves.  We sometimes talk about the need for mountain-moving faith. Yet at times, it may be a roof that needs moving. For ourselves, we can seek to emulate the men who carried the paralysed man to Jesus. We bring people to Jesus on the stretcher of prayer. Some of those we carry may be unable, or unwilling, to come by themselves. Let’s be determined anyway, to press through every obstacle and barrier, and get those people, those needs to the feet of Jesus. Does anybody else feel there’s something here about prayer as you read these words? Does it in any way resonate with your own experience? Don’t you often feel like you have to press through some things before there can be breakthrough?

The big issue in this story is about the identity of Jesus. Who is He? If only God can forgive sins, what inference are we meant to draw about Christ? When the paralytic got up from ‘’his mat’’ and ‘’walked out in full view of them all’’ (12), that sealed it. It showed that Jesus really had forgiven his sins. The religious leaders did not like the implications. From this point on, they were on a collision course with the Lord which would eventually lead to Calvary.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, you taught that perseverance in prayer is necessary. This story reminds me of that. Please help me to keep going

Daily Bible thoughts 1467: Tuesday 1st August 2017: Mark 1:40-45: You can pray for yourself.

Mark 1:40-45: You can pray for yourself.

“40 A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, ‘If you are willing, you can make me clean.’  41 Jesus was indignant. He reached out his hand and touched the man. ‘I am willing,’ he said. ‘Be clean!’ 42 Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed. 43 Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: 44 ‘See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.’ 45 Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.” NIV UK

Here are three question:

  1. Do you want to be healed? Some years ago I knew a lovely man who lived in the Morecambe area. I visited him and his wife regularly, and he was always happy for me to pray for him. However, he had a mental blockage when it came to praying for himself. He felt he couldn’t do it. Perhaps it seemed selfish? However, today’s passage surely lays such an idea to rest. Jesus clearly did not mind the leper praying for himself. He prayed earnestly for his own need, and Jesus did not rebuke him. Of course you can pray for your own healing. Away with any notion that you can’t. Obviously, you won’t want to become self-obsessed, but as someone said, whatever concerns the child concerns the Father. If you have health concerns; you can come to Jesus and kneel beside the leper. He will not turn you away. As with the story of Simon’s mother-in-law (1:30,31), so here there is a link between the ‘prayer’ (40) and Jesus’ response (41). Although Jesus may not always answer with immediate healing, He surely always answers with ‘’compassion’’ for the person in need.
  2. Do you want to be clean? The word ‘’clean’’ comes twice in the passage (40,41), and ‘’cleansing’’ is also found once in (44). So this is an important theme in a short section. Leprosy is a term used for a variety of skin diseases – not just the worst case scenario illness we tend to think about whenever leprosy is mentioned. What we can say, though, is that the big ‘L’ leprosy is a picture of sin. It deforms, and eventually, destroys human lives. It chews people up. It nibbles away at the edges of who God made them to be. Whereas it is not always Jesus’ will to heal our illness ‘’Immediately’’, it is always His will to cleanse from sin. How urgently, though, do you feel the desire to be holy; to be made clean in heart? Can you share David’s heartfelt prayer in Psalm 51? Does such a longing for purity bring you to your knees?
  3. Will you obey? When Jesus saves/heals you (and remember the Biblical concept of salvation includes healing) it is so that you may obey Him/obey His Word (44). You don’t then go off and raise the flag of independence. You come to Jesus on your knees, and that is, as it were, where you spend the rest of your days. Life begins at the feet of Jesus, and there it will continue. In asking why Jesus gave this ‘’strong warning’’ (43) Tom Wright makes the point that if the man were blind, it would be obvious that his eyes were now open; if he were deaf, it would be clear that he could now hear. However, if he happened to turn up in his community claiming to be free of leprosy, some people might be cagey. So it was important for him to go through the proper procedure to verify his healing. If he went through the official channels, he could then come away with a proper public clean bill of health. Let’s be clear, he didn’t need to keep the law of Moses in order to get clean, but so that he could be pronounced clean. When you were dealing with leprosy, it was really important for others to know that you were no longer a public health threat. ‘’But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way’’ 

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