Even Molecules Obey

When they saw Jesus walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified. Immediately he spoke with them and said, “Have courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” – Mark 6:49-50 (CSB)

After miraculously feeding thousands, Jesus told the apostles to board a boat and head to the opposite shore. He stayed behind for some time to pray alone. During the night, a storm formed that caused even the experienced fishermen to struggle.

In these conditions, Jesus stepped onto the water and began walking to the other side. When the disciples saw him and were frightened, Jesus spoke to calm them.

Both this and the feeding show Jesus’ absolute control over nature as the Son of God. Even the molecules of water beneath his feet bend to his will. This also shows the calming effect of God upon his people.

Scripture often confronts our fearful hearts with the command “don’t be afraid.” Fear and faith are opposite poles. Fear comes when we look at a situation and find it overwhelming, sometimes being overwhelmed by the sense of the unknown. Fear creeps in at times when we think we have perfectly rational reasons while other fear is irrational from every angle that we can view it.

Faith, however, trusts that God is actually in control. Even if we don’t understand a situation, even if it does overwhelm our abilities, and even if it ultimately leaves us drowned in a sea. Faith looks to God and says, “I trust you no matter what, because you are good, you love me, and you are bigger than everything in the universe you created.”

Trust Jesus in faith. Trust him even with your deepest fears. After all, there is not a molecule in creation beyond his control.

Mark 6_50

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The Great Provider

Jesus asked them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” When they found out they said, “Five and two fish.” Then he instructed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he blessed and broke the loaves. He kept giving them to his disciples to set before the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. Everyone ate and was satisfied. They picked up twelve baskets full of pieces of bread and fish. Now those who had eaten the loaves were five thousand men. – Mark 6:38-44 (CSB)

Faced with hungry crowds and a late hour, and tired from the days of ministry, Jesus’ apostles urged Jesus to send away the people to find something to eat. Instead Jesus told them to feed the crowd of thousands using what they had: Five loaves of bread and two fish.

When Jesus divided the food, this provided enough that not only were all present satisfied with the meal (these weren’t scrawny rations), there were enough left overs that each of the apostles came back to Jesus holding a basket.

Yes, Jesus worked a miracle. The God who created all things with his words can multiply a meal only good for a family or two into one that feeds thousands. But here we see more than Jesus’ sovereign power over nature, we also see Jesus as the great provider, the great satisfier.

This same account in John 6 is followed by Jesus’ discourse on being the “bread of life.” There, he calls people to focus their attention beyond the bread that merely satisfies the stomach and instead look to him who satisfies the soul. There, Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. No one who comes to me will ever be hungry, and no one who believes in me will ever be thirsty again” (John 6:35).

Like the crowd, we all know the pangs of physical hunger. But we also know those of spiritual hunger. In life we try to dull the pain or ignore it through different religious rituals, good works, or the fleeting pleasures of sin. Yet, each ultimately leaves us craving more. Each does not finally satisfy. With Jesus, we are freed from dead ritual and brought into living relationship. We are free from the need to earn God’s favor because God freely gives us his favor. We are free from sin’s passing pleasures and the disasters that ultimately follow because Jesus provides greater pleasures and eternal life.

So, let us partake of Jesus by trusting in him for rescue from sin and the hope of true life. Let us rest, satisfied, in what he has provided through himself. Let us live daily with the joy and hope that magnifies his greatness.

What Faithfulness Might Cost

For Herod himself had given orders to arrest John and to chain him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because he had married her. John had been telling Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” So Herodias held a grudge against him and wanted to kill him. But she could not, because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing he was a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard him he would be very perplexed and yet he like to listen to him. – Mark 6:17-20

As the fame of Jesus increased, there continued to be questions about his identity. Some even thought he was a resurrected John the Baptist (6:14). It is at this point that Mark explained to his readers what had happened to John. The popular prophet spoke against the sins of the civic leaders, an act that landed him in prison.

Herod, though, didn’t want to execute John due to fear but also amazement. Though John’s message offended him it also drew him in. So, Herod would listen to John until Herodias, the wife whom he had taken unlawfully, devised a plan to force John’s execution.

The prophetic voice of those faithful to God often rub the wrong way those in power. The claims of the Kingdom of God and Jesus as Savior-King are claims of authority. The Bible tells us that a day is coming where every knee, include those of kings, presidents, governors, and dictators, will bow before Jesus as Lord. He is the Sovereign One and our lives belong to him, either to our eternal joy and pleasure or to our eternal dismay—depending on if we willfully place our lives under his authority now.

Power possessed by human beings corrupted with sin often breeds an attitude that one can get away with whatever one pleases. Hence why Herod acted the way he did, and why many in power today act in similar ways. Yet, in the end, Jesus will stand as the righteous Judge. None will be beyond his authority.

When we faithfully proclaim the sovereignty of God over all earthly powers, and we call people to repent and trust in Jesus, it will sometimes upset the powers that be. In the face of such situations, we are to be like John and continue to faithfully speak the truth, even if it should cost us our freedom or even our head (6:24-29).

Isn’t this the carpenter?

When the Sabbath came, Jesus began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished. “Where did this man get these things?” they said. “What is this wisdom that has been given to him, and how are these miracles performed by his hands? Isn’t this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And aren’t his sisters here with us?” So they were offended by him. – Mark 6:2-3 (CSB)

The identity of Jesus was often in question—who was this man who could do these things? In his hometown, where many had known him and his family for years, doubt prevailed. Despite hearing his teaching and seeing or hearing about some of his miracles, they were skeptics. “We know him and his family,” so they thought. “This is a carpenter, who does he think he is?”

The identity of Jesus is still in question today. Some doubt he existed, at least as the man described in the Bible. Some think he is a good teacher. Some think he was a religious prophet.

CS Lewis was known to say that when it came to Jesus and the claims he made, then he is either Lord, lunatic, or liar. Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, the Messiah—the Savior-King. Were these claims lies? Were they the ramblings of a mad-man? That seemed to be how many in his hometown of Nazareth thought.

But what about the miracles? In Mark 5, Jesus healed a man who had been possessed by many demons. Then he healed a woman who had suffered for many years from a bleeding condition. To top this all, he took the hand of a dead girl and brought her back to life.

A liar and a lunatic could do such things. A liar could have plants in the crowd and fake miracles with little-to-no verification, but a group of people knew the girl had died and laughed at Jesus when he said otherwise.

The miracles of Jesus help confirm the message and the identity of Jesus. Even if many rejected him, he knew exactly who he was: The Son of God sent to earth to bring good news of healing from sin and its effects. He may have been a carpenter, but he was also so much more.

Everyday Missionaries

As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged him earnestly that he might remain with him. Jesus did not let him but told him, “Go home to your own people and report to them how much the Lord has done for you and how he has had mercy on you.” So he went out and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and they were all amazed. – Mark 5:18-20 (CSB)

While coming into the region of the Gerasenes, Jesus encountered a man possessed by a legion of demons. After casting them out into a herd of pigs that then jumped off a cliff, the people of the land asked Jesus to leave. He did, and as he was departing, the man who had been possessed begged to go with him.

But Jesus had different plans for the man. He told him to return to his own people and tell them how much God had done for him.

Sometimes Jesus calls us on an epic journey of faith that takes us well beyond our comfort zones to proclaim the gospel far and wide. Other times, Jesus tells us to go home—but even then it is with the same task: Tell others about what Jesus has done for you.

Some of us have stories, like this man, where we were radically saved from a situation or lifestyle that brought great harm. Others of us lived generally as “good people” according to the world’s standards, but came to realize that didn’t keep us from being desperate sinners against God who chased our own heart idols instead of worshiping him.

Whatever our background, our salvation is a great act of God where he does infinitely more for us than what we deserve. Saved by grace, we each have a story to share with others. We each are called to be everyday missionaries.

Maybe that means that Jesus will lead you to get into the boat with him and go to some region far from home. Maybe that means that Jesus will tell you to stay and share with your friends, family, and neighbors. Either way, tell others the story of the great things that God has done for you.

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Faith Conquers Fear

A great windstorm arose and the waves were breaking over the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on the cushion. So they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher! Don’t you care that we’re going to die?” He got up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Silence! Be still!” The wind ceased and there was a great calm. Then he said to them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” – Mark 4:37-40 (CSB)

People have many things to fear. Do a google search for the number of phobias and you will run into seemingly unending lists. Whatever our own individual fears might be, we find this truth in the gospel: Faith conquers fear.

One evening, Jesus wanted to cross the sea with his apostles and so they left the crowds behind and set sail in a boat. While on their way, a great windstorm arose that frightened even the seasoned fishermen. And where was Jesus? Asleep.

The disciples had been with Jesus long enough to know that he was someone special, though they hadn’t yet fully come to realize his nature as the God-Man, our Savior-King. So, they woke him and asked if he even cared that they were going to die?

Jesus responded first by rebuking the winds and second by rebuking their lack of faith. The first act reminded them that he was the Son of God, and therefore the Sovereign over the universe. Every molecule in the rushing air and crashing seas obeyed his voice. The second act reminded them that they were his followers and instead of fear they needed to trust.

Faith trusts that God is in charge and he will take care of his people. He will keep us safe on earth as he wills to keep us safe, and even when he wills that death should overtake us, he will keep us safe by bringing us home to him.

This is why, especially after Jesus’ death and resurrection, when they were filled with the Holy Spirit, the apostles learned to stare down danger and remain faithful to God’s leading on their life. In prison, knowing he was going to die at the hands of Roman officials, Paul said, “The Lord has kept me safe and he will keep me safe” (2 Timothy 4).

The world might give you many reasons to fear. Your own proclivities might lead you to fear. Your Father in heaven, however, says, “Have no fear, I will take care of you regardless of what you see happening.” So, entrust your life and your fears to him and let his word and Spirit strengthen you.

Faith conquers fear.

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The Seed and the Soils

Jesus said, “Listen! Consider the sower who went out to sow. As he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and their birds came and devoured it. Other seed fell on rocky ground where it didn’t have much soil and it grew up quickly, since the soil wasn’t deep. When the sun came up, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns came up and choked it, and it didn’t produce fruit. Still other seed fell on good ground and it grew up, producing fruit that increased thirty, sixty, and a hundred times.” ~ Mark 4:3-8 (CSB)

In Mark 4, Jesus tells the crowds a series of parables, or illustrative stories Jesus used to make a spiritual point. The first was about a sower with seed and the different types of soils he encountered. When his apostles asked for an explanation, Jesus gave it in 4:13-20.

The seed is scripture, or God’s word. The sower is a person sharing God’s word with others. The soil is the condition of the listener’s heart. The path is where no soil exists and the seed of the word produces no fruit. The rocky soil is the person who hears and initially has great joy in the gospel but hard times cause them to walk away. The thorny and weedy soil is the person who also initially hears with joy but worries or desire for riches or other distractions draw them away. The good soil is the person who hears, responds in true faith, and has a life that is forever transformed by Jesus.

This parable tells us several things:

First, we should have no prejudice in spreading the gospel. We are tempted to think that certain people or certain types of people would surely never respond to God’s word, and we think others should hear it and believe in Jesus with no problem. The reality is, we don’t know the condition of a person’s heart-soil. We can’t see that deep. Jesus didn’t tell us to try to figure out the soils; he told us to sow the seed. Any person anywhere who will give us an ear is a person with whom we are called to share the gospel.

Second, we should be prepared when people walk away. As followers of Jesus, we often aren’t surprised by people who flat out reject the gospel. That’s the natural way of the human heart in its sin until our will is turned to Christ. We also aren’t often surprised by people who receive the gospel. That’s the whole point of evangelism, after all, to see people come to know and follow Jesus.

But we do get caught off guard by those who seem to be in love with Jesus and then they walk away. Yet, these represent half the responses in Jesus’ parable. Everybody dreams of a better life with more joy and purpose. Sometimes, the message of Jesus will pique a person’s interest due to the offer of an eternally joy-filled life. Yet, when they realize that doesn’t mean freedom from hardships now, or when the next big thing in their minds comes along, then they walk away.

They lacked a faith that truly sees heart-transformation. It should sadden us. We should pray that they would come to see the light of Christ clearly and truly follow him. But it shouldn’t surprise us. After all, Jesus told us to expect.

Third, a true Jesus-follower will experience life transformation. Good seed (which the gospel is always good seed) that falls on good soil produces fruit. Most often in the New Testament such symbolism of fruit represents a changed character—such as the fruit of the Spirit: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.

Not everyone will grow and change at the same rate—Jesus spoke of different amounts of fruit: thirty, sixty, and a hundred-fold. But a person who has truly committed their life to Jesus will experience spiritual growth. The good fruit of good character will become more and more evident in their lives.

Let us share the gospel with everyone who will listen. Then as that seed sprouts to growth, let us keep watering and fertilizing it with prayer, Christian fellowship, and more of God’s word to see it grow and produce more and more.

New posts in this series will appear most Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.

Mark 4_8

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