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Then Jesus said "Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear." (Mark 4: 9)

It is often said of Jesus that he was a good teacher because he was such a good communicator. Indeed as a teacher myself I have often thought about how I could emmulate Jesus in my teaching practice. I have spent quite a bit of time looking at what Jesus did when he was teaching people, and yet I have never really been able to pin down any specific teaching techniques that I can adapt to my work.

It is often said, for example, that he was a good communicator because he ‘spoke with pictures’ using parables to make the complex things he taught be more accessible and simple. But when I look into his teaching in detail I actually find the opposite.

"When he was alone the twelve and others around him asked him about the parables" (Mark 4: 10). The very people who might be able to understand the complexities of the kingdom because they spent all there time with him, were as perplexed as everyone else. Far from making the concepts seem simple, it seemed that it made them harder.

When I first noticed this I thought that maybe it was my imagination. Jesus wouldn’t deliberately try to make things difficult for us would he? Surely it was because his disciples were just uneducated fishermen. Maybe they couldn’t understand Jesus because they weren’t smart enough. But we actually read Jesus own words that say the exact opposite. "At that time Jesus said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.’" (Matthew 11:25)

In fact he makes this clear in this very chapter. "He told them, ‘The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that, ’they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!’ " (Luke 4: 11-12)

Far from being a good teacher, Jesus aim was actually to hide the kingdom of God away from those who wouldn’t appreciate it. The gate is narrow, and few travel it. If you actually seek the Lord (as the disciples and other around him did), then he will make know the mysteries of God. But if you are not interested then he will not give it to you on a platter. He wants us to ask, to seek, to knock, and not to just sit there and say ‘What a nice moral’, or ‘what a wonderful story’.

Contrary to popular belief, I think Jesus he spoke in parables to that what he was saying was NOT obvious. The parables where more like riddles, clues to the kingdom for those who were persistent enough to search out there meaning. Like a child who is not afraid to keep asking why God want us to be both curious and persistent.

Jesus is the way the truth and the life, but it won’t just fall down and hit your from the sky. There is work to be done if you want to discover the mysteries of God. That kind of knowledge should only be available to those who have sought to understand it and struggled with it’s meaning and now know it’s significance.

The revelation of who Jesus is can only ultimately be found by those who are looking in the right place, knocking on the right doors and asking the right people. God is glad to reveal himself and in that way make himself vulnerable, but only to those who love him and obey him.

God bless

Matt

And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, "He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons." (Mark 3:20-22).

In the introduction to this series I quoted C. S. Lewis “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God…”

In the last devotional we saw that his own family called him mad. In the next verse we see that the teachers of the law (the religious people of the day) said he had a demon. Here are the two possibilities in these two verses. Is he mad? Does he have a Demon?

To my mind the good things that I read about in Mark prove that far from being mad, he is in fact a genius. He seems to know just what to do and say at every turn. And as far as where the source of his power is coming from – it doesn’t take much effort to refute the claim that it is from Satan. It just doesn’t make sense. As Jesus says in verse 23 and 24 "…How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand."

What I find interesting is that it’s the so called experts who often make the worst judgements. His family knew him best and yet they call him mad. The teachers of the law spent their lives studying God, yet they didn’t recognise him when he was standing right in front of them, in fact they spurned him as Satan. "For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened." (Romans 1:21).

If we are going to properly understand who Jesus is we need to look beyond our first impressions. "He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem." (Isaiah 53:2b-3)

Would we make the same mistake if we saw Jesus in the street today? We are so quick to judge sometimes that it makes me wonder. He doesn’t necessarily meet the expectations we have of him. This is why it is important to step back and take another look at who Jesus really is.

This exercise is also about discovering who we should be if we are follower of Christ. If we want to be like Jesus then we too can expect to be misundertood. Often the people you thought should know better will be the very ones who will accuse you, and call you mad, evil or worse. But be encouraged because if this is happening because you are following Christ it means you are doing something right.

God bless,

Matt.

“Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind.’ ” (Mark 3:21)

Until I looked carefully at this passage I actually thought Jesus had a reasonably supportive family. His mother knew he was destined for great things. His brothers, we hear later, helped spread his message. Yet here we see his own family saying he is crazy.

I can see how his family might be concerned that he was not eating, but I think it was more than that. I think what Jesus was saying and doing was making them feel uncomfortable, and because they didn’t understand what he was doing they called it madness. Well all I can say is I would gladly be thought of as mad by anyone, even my family and friends, if I could achieve even a fraction of what Jesus did.

I have been lucky to have a very supportive Christian family, but I know of many others within my church and in the wider community who are not so fortunate. There are many stories of Christian, even in countries like Australia and America, who have to deal with families who say they are crazy because they believe in christ.

If you are experiencing family or friends who are doing precisely that then be comforted, because Jesus said that this is the way it would be. “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” (Mark 13:12-13) More than this we can also take comfort in the fact that Jesus knows what we are going through. “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” (John 15:18).

Jesus didn’t just talk the talk, he also walked the walk. “For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” (Hebrews 2:17-18)

But this doesn’t help us to deal with this issue, does it? Well actually it does. When we read that Jesus suffered the same way we are, not only does it tell us that we are not alone and that Jesus understands what we are going through, but if we read and carefully observe what he said and how he handled himself in various situations we can get an insight into the best way to deal with our problems.

For example, how did Jesus deal with the fact that his family were rejecting him and saying he was mad? He recognised the blessings his father in heaven had given him. He was not without a family. Quite the contrary, “Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.’ ” (Mark 3:34-35)

When thinking about who Jesus is it is more than helpful to remember that for all the amazing sign and miracles that show he was the son of God, he was also very much the son of man, a human like you and me. We can look to his example to get us through our own life.

God bless,

Matt.

“‘But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’, so he said to the man, ‘I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home’” (Mark 2:10-11)

Who is Jesus? In the second chapter of Mark we see some more amazing acts – None more astonishing and revealing than Jesus healing the paralyzed man. As I read this account again today I can imagine the scene. It would almost be surreal. Jesus has just returned home. We are told that huge crowds have gathered around him, so that it is almost impossible to get to see him.

I guess if you pictured a movie star appearing on the red carpet you might get a similar picture. The problem is that the people who are crowding around are not necessarilythe ones Jesus wants to see. “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (verse 17b)

Despite this, those who were determined to see him found a way. This is what impressed Jesus about the paralyzed man and his friends. They recognised who Jesus was and they were not going to let anything get in the way of them seeing him. Jesus described this a faith – that they should see Jesus for who he really is and not let anyone or anything else get in the way of seeing him.

It wasn’t a fancy prayer, or weeks of fasting, or the love that the friends showed for their companion. It wasn’t that any of them had done anything special, or were particularly righteous or special people. All of these are noble things, but in order to have faith all you need to do is to understand enough about who Jesus really is that you will do anything to meet him.

When these men sought out and found Jesus the result was that their friend received both physical and spiritual healing. The most important thing that happened to the paralyzed man that day was not the restoration of his legs but the restoration of his relationship with God, and it was Jesus who did it.

So how can a mere man restore our relationship with God? The pharisees asked the same question. But what they failed to realise was the nature of this man Jesus. He is the means by which God intended to restore his relationship with us. It was his planright from the beginning of time. Jesus proved that he is the way to God, not only with words, but with a very practical demonstration.

It is the same for us. If we understand that Jesus is the one who came to restore our relationship with God and that our sin – the one thing which separated us from him – has been forgiven through Jesus, then we too can come to him for salvation, and that means more than just forgiveness of sins and a restoration of our relationship with God. There is physical healing too.

The Greek word for salvation ‘sozo’ is also sometimes translated as healing, as in the following passage "He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering." (Mark 5:34). When you understand that Jesus came to save us from our sins, you also need to understand that this means he came to heal us and give us a full life.

It wouldn’t be true healing if sins weren’t forgiven, and it wouldn’t be true forgiveness of sins if there was no practical sign of healing. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that his own sin caused him to be ill, nor am I saying that as a Christian you will never be sick or get ill, but I am saying that healing is part of God’s plan of salvation through Jesus.

Jesus is inviting us to pick ourselves up, instead of being paralysed by both physical and spiritual illness, and head home where God is waiting with open arms to welcome you. Ask him for healing and he will also provide you with a relationship with God and an eternal home. He alone is the one with the authority to do it. It is part of Jesus is.

God bless,

Matt.

"And a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased." Mark 1:11

So who is Jesus? In the last devotional I mentioned that a good place to start finding out would be by reading the gospel of Mark and finding out what others said about him, and then looking at what he said and did and making up your own mind.

In the last 24 hours I have been thinking about the benefits of doing this so much that I believe I should change the direction I was going to take in these devotional and actually spend some time doing exactly that, looking a the character of Jesus in Mark. This will ultimately help us understand more completely his revelation about being the life the truth and the way.

I have chosen Mark because I find it a very short but powerful book. It doesn’t take long to read, and yet it is very observant, giving us both the big picture and some very fascinating small detail in a short time frame. This makes it ideal for this exercise.

The first chapter (which I have previously done very detailed devotionals on: http://mydailydevotional.wordpress.com/category/books-of-the-bible/mark/) reveals that Mark beleives he is the promised messiah the son of God (verse 1). It reveal Jesus bringing in the Kingdom of God in verse 15. It also challenges us to follow him and encourage others to do the same.

According to those around him he also taught with authority (verse 22 and 27) . He is also acknowledged as the holy one of God, even by the very spirits he came to defeat in order to set us free (verse 24). In fact a large amount of what he did can be summed up in this verse "…and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was." (Mark 1:34). (I will talk about why Jesus did not wanting people to know who he really was in a later devotional).

His main purpose was to preach near and far (verse 38). In everything he did he was a willing participant. "A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, ‘If you are willing, you can make me clean.’ Jesus was indignant. He reached out his hand and touched the man. ‘I am willing,’ he said. ‘Be clean!’" (Mark 1:40-41)

Many of these things we see just in the first chapter of Mark, will have significant meaning when we look in detail at Jesus claim to be the way (which we must follow) the truth (taught with authority) and the life (conquering illness and oppression). Mark goes on with more conformation of these things and other amazing revelations as we will see in the next devotionals.

But in this first chapter of Mark we already see the signs of a man who was far more than any other man. More than a teacher, more than a prophet, when you read about what was said about him and what he did you can’t help but come to the same conclusion as the Roman Centurion who saw him die. "Surely this man was the Son of God!" (Mark 15:39b)

God bless,

Matt.

"’But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’…" Mark 8:29a

The key issue for anyone who want to follow Jesus is to ask the very question Jesus himself asks his disciples in this passage. Who do we say that Jesus is? The answer to this question is at the heart of the issue because if we don’t recognise Jesus true nature then we can’t understand the things he says.

As Paul point out in 1 Corinthians 1:20-21 "Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe."

It is impossible to understand the words of Jesus if we resort to purely worldly understanding. It is like a stranger trying to describe to you someone you actually know very well. Whatever words they use will not ever capture the spirit of that person in the way that someone with an intimate relationship could. To truely understand Jesus and his words we need to develop an intimate relationship with him.

But even the most intimate of friends started off as strangers. If you don’t know Jesus yet (or even if you think you do) then let me encourage you to get to know him better. How? In the same way the disciples did. "Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, ‘Who do people say I am?” Mark 8:27

They hung around him following him around and listening to what he said and watching what he did. At some point in that journey the question was asked "Who is this Jesus? " They were encouraged to consider what others said about him, but nothing would compare with finding out for themselves.

You can do the same. Go on a journey with him. Visit the places he visited, see what he did, what he said, and what others said of him. Listen carefully to everything you see and here and make up your own mind. How? Read the gospels, starting with the gospel of Mark. As you read it ask yourself "Who is this Jesus. Why should I treat him seriously? What make him so different?

As you read his story I am confident that you will see Jesus in a different light. Perhaps you will come to a point where you too can say what Peter said. "Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah.’" Mark 8: 29b. If you come to understand for yourself that Jesus is your Saviour and your King (which is what being the messiah meant) then your life will never be the same.

"From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. ‘You do not want to leave too, do you?’ Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.’" (John 6:66-69)

I pray it will be the same for you as you get to know Jesus for yourself.

God bless,

Matt.

“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life… ” (John 14:6a)

In this next series of devotionals I want to look at a passage of scripture that has had me thinking now for many months. I believe it is not only one of Jesus most famous sayings but also quite possibly one of his most outlandish. I have been contemplating, researching, praying and discussing with friends and colleagues just exactly what Jesus means by these words.

The more I contemplate them the more remarkable they seem. It’s not just that he would even say these things about himself, but it’s also about the fact that he was taken seriously when he said them. It was more than words. They are a truly startling revelation of who Jesus really is. Claims he couldn’t make without actions to back them up.

What exactly was Jesus claiming? Why was it life changing at the time? Why should it be life changing for me? These are all questions I would like to answer and although it may take me a long time, I am looking forward to seeing the results of what I discover come to fruition, and I want to share what I find with everyone.

I want these devotions to be both for those who have never really looked seriously at Jesus words, and for those who have, but want a fresh understanding, in the same way that I do. I want to know who Jesus really is, not just stick to preconceived ideas. And I think the best way to find out is through his own words.

Of couse there are three reasons behind this. The first is because I need direction in my life. I need to know where I am going and how I am going to get there. I need to plan carefully and I don’t want to be distracted by anything. If Jesus is the way, then surely I have to give up my own path and follow him instead?

The second reason is that, as an educated man, I have always been on a search for the truth. So many people lie. So many people deceive and mislead. They claim to have the truth but how can I know for sure? If Jesus is the truth then surely I need a change of mind, and I should be seeking after him instead?

Finally the third reason is that I want to live it up! We only have one life to live so I want to find out how I can make the most of it. If Jesus is the life then he is THE MAN. I should be hanging around him. I should be watching what he did and following his example. If you want to live – to really live, then welcome to Christianity!

You see, as I understand it Jesus is claiming to be IT! Everything and the only thing that matters. I want to take a much closer look at who Jesus was, and what he did. What kind of man can make that claim a get away with it. If everything he claims in this one verse is true then all of us, both those who profess to follow Christ and those who do not, have some serious thinking to do.

As C S Lewis famously said in his book mere christianity “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God…”

Whatever the result I want to know THIS Jesus.

God bless you all,

Matt.

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