Notes and readings (for the week commencing 9th January, 2012) are shown below, with a PDF version available here. The sermon topic this Sunday (15/01/2012) will be “Many people came to him”.

Day 1: Read Mark 3:1-6

You will have noticed in the readings last week, that almost from the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry he faced opposition from the teachers of the law and the Pharisees. The ‘teachers of the law’ were literally ‘men of letters’ – scribes. The Pharisees were leaders in the Jewish religion who knew and kept the law and prided themselves in it.

Chapter 3 opens with ongoing discussion regarding the Sabbath. Remember the end of Chapter 2? Jesus claims to have authority even over the Sabbath! Jesus healed the man with the shrivelled hand even though it was the Sabbath because he is Lord of the Sabbath and because it surely must be good to do good on the Sabbath. They didn’t have an answer to that claim! Tragic that the way in which humans often twist or add to God’s law actually results in the opposite effect God intended! Note in v5 that Jesus is ‘deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts’. He is not untouched by their attitude. It’s not ‘water off a duck’s back to him’. He is personally impacted by their refusal to be open to what he is saying. Do you know someone who is stubbornly holding out on Jesus? Jesus is deeply distressed about them too!

So here we are at the beginning of chapter 3 and there is already a plot to kill Jesus. (The Herodians were influential people who strongly supported Herod Antipas and Jesus was a threat to his secure rule. The Pharisees – whilst not supporting Herod – equally did not want Jesus’ new kingdom as they were waiting for the Messiah to remove the rule of the Herods and Rome. Thus, despite their opposition to each other, the Herodians and Pharisees worked together to oppose Jesus because neither wanted the new kingdom he was introducing.)

We see Jesus’ authority once more – to heal and rule over the Sabbath. Does he have unbridled authority in your life?

Day 2: Read Mark 3:7-19

Because of the threat from the conspiracy of the Pharisees and Herodians, Jesus withdraws from Capernaum a second time. This is a critical new stage in Jesus’ ministry. He is now increasingly a field teacher, no longer welcome in the synagogues.

Note the points of the compass from which the crowd gathers – from Galilee in the west, Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea in the south, the regions across the Jordan in the east and around Tyre and Sidon in the north.  Real places in history and geography! They thronged for healing – so much so he has to arrange for a boat to put create a safe distance between him and the crowd. Note again the conflict (and mock worship) of the evil spirits which began in the wilderness and will end at the crucifixion. This is one of Mark’s major themes. Again he orders them to be quiet as if word got out about his identity – his ministry would come to an immediate end.

Note in relation to ‘The Twelve’ (Jesus’ distinctive name for the disciples), that the initiative lay with Jesus. Why 12? You will recall there were 12 tribes of Israel. Here are the beginnings of a new Israel – the reconstituted people of God with whom Jesus will later make the new covenant (testament).

Note that Jesus calls them TO him, that they might be with him – to be instructed by him, and then to send them out to preach and have authority to drive out demons. Preaching is primary. The driving out of demons was a sign that the coming of God’s kingdom means an overthrow of the evil one.

If the overthrow of evil is basic to the coming of God’s kingdom, are you taking up the fight to overthrow the evil in your heart and life?

Day 3: Read Mark 3:20-30

On return to Capernaum Jesus is faced again with another huge crowd. He and his disciples were not even able to eat! His family had concerns. Had he gone mad with delusions of grandeur?

So controversial is Jesus becoming, that his family make a day’s trip from Nazareth and teachers of the law come down from Jerusalem. They reckon he is evil and is driving out demons by Beelzebub (Satan). Jesus replies with a question – ‘how can Satan drive out Satan?’ Satan would in that case be opposing himself! Jesus is rather demonstrating his power over Satan as he had done since the beginning and will do so at the end. He is ‘robbing’ Satan of his captives. That’s his mission! He has released YOU believer from Satan’s clutches, by his death and resurrection! Praise God. And anyone and everyone can be forgiven their sin and released from Satan’s clutches!

Except…! Except who? Who can’t be forgiven?  The one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit. The present tense ‘blasphemes’ indicates a continual habit of resisting the ministry of the Holy Spirit convicting the heart and mind about the truth of Jesus. That is what the teachers of the law were doing. They rejected the truth about Jesus. Worried that you have committed this sin? Don’t. The very fact you are concerned you might have, means you are open to the Holy Spirit’s convicting work.

Day 4: Read Mark 3:31-35

A short reading for you today to complete your week’s readings. Adam and I trust that by now, you are firmly committed to reading through Mark’s gospel with us, a chapter per week and are already seeing the benefit of regular Bible reading and reflection.

The family who had set out for Capernaum (v21) now arrive: specifically Jesus’ mother and four brothers. They are on the outside, so a message is sent to Jesus that his mothers and brothers were looking for him. Notice Jesus answers with a question again. “Who are my mother and brothers?”

He looks at those seated around him – probably the Twelve. What did you make of what Jesus then said? (vv34-35.)

Whoever does God’s will Jesus says, is his family. Was this some sort of put down to his blood relatives? He is saying that to follow him and learn from his teaching is to do God’s will and therefore to be part of Jesus’ true family. The community of the kingdom of God is real family – Jesus’ family.

If you are doing God’s will by following Jesus, you are members of Jesus’ family – along with everyone else who does the same. This challenges our modern world’s tendency to selfish individualism. It challenges the modern day church which is often satisfied by meeting an hour a week. That’s not the picture of family Jesus paints! Here we are confronted with the amazing blessing which flows from following Jesus. Family! Jesus’ family. The Anglican Church of Noosa family!