THE CHALLENGES OF KNOWING JESUS
Week of September 20, 2009
Bible Verses: Mark 6:1-6,45-52; 7:8-9,13.
Lesson Focus: This lesson will help you overcome the inevitable challenges of following Jesus.
Face Rejection: Mark 6:1-6.
 He went away from there and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him.  And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, "Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands?  Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?" And they took offense at him.  And Jesus said to them, "A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household."  And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them.
 And he marveled because of their unbelief. And he went about among the villages teaching.
[1-3] Jesus left
Rather than celebrating
Jesus' success, the townspeople are skeptical and attempt to discredit His
ministry. They do not refer to Jesus by name but with distance and suspicion,
as this man. Moreover, they took offense at Him, they fail to honor Him
as a prophet , and they exhibit an amazing lack of faith . The skepticism
[4-6] In the
face of disbelief and rejection, Jesus quotes a proverb that a prophet is
honorable everywhere but at home. The idea and even wording of the saying were
not uncommon in antiquity, including both Jewish and Greco-Roman contexts.
Jesus thus takes over a piece of wisdom current in His day and applies it to
three concentric social circles in
Overcome Fear: Mark 6:45-52.
 Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd.  And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray.  And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land.  And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them,  but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out,  for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, "Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid."  And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded,  for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened. [ESV]
[45-46] The second occasion when Jesus demonstrated
His sovereignty over the sea, like the stilling of the storm in 4:35-41, is
connected with the
[47-52] By the time Jesus had finished praying it was
the dark hours before dawn and the disciples were well out to sea. The
observation that the boat was on the sea and Jesus was alone on the land seems
labored until it is seen as an element in a recurring pattern in Mark. Whenever
the master is absent from the disciples, they find themselves in distress. And
each time they experience anguish it is because they lack faith. The reason
that Jesus came to the disciples across the rough sea about 3 in the morning
was that He had seen His disciples exerting themselves against a strong wind
which blew presumably from the north or northeast and drove them off their
course. The disciples reacted to Jesus' appearance with terror, convinced that
they had encountered a water spirit. It was the popular belief of that time
that spirits of the night brought disaster. When Jesus perceived the terror of
the disciples He allayed their fears and corrected their delusion with a
summons to courage. The admonitions to take
heart and do not be afraid which
introduce and conclude the it is I
are an integral part of the divine formula of self-revelation. Jesus assured
the disciples with His word and His presence. When he joined them in the boat
the wind suddenly died down. The disciples were utterly astonished. They had no
categories for understanding Jesus' presence with them in the boat. Mark alone
explains that they had failed to understand about the loaves and that their
hearts were hardened. The disciples certainly realized that the multitude had
been fed with five loaves and two fish, but they had failed to grasp that this
event pointed beyond itself to the secret of Jesus' person. Because they were
not truly open to the action of God in Jesus, they had missed the significance
of the miracle of the loaves for them, and saw only a miracle. That is why they
displayed not confidence and joy in Jesus' unexpected presence but faithless
panic. Mark's concluding explanation is important in three respects: (1) it
indicates that some events in Jesus' ministry are parabolic in that they
provide the key to other events. If the disciples had understood the miracle of
the loaves they would have recognized Jesus' identity as the sovereign Lord who
walks upon the waves of the sea. (2) The problem of understanding is not intellectual,
but existential; it is a matter of faith. The disciples did understand Jesus'
incidental instructions and they understood that the multitude had been fed.
But their confused reaction to Jesus indicates that they failed to recognize
that God was acting in history through Him. Their misunderstanding reflects
unbelief. (3) The disciples' reaction to Jesus' actions (as well as His
teachings) throughout Mark's Gospel is characterized by non-understanding. In
tracing this lack of understanding to hardness of heart Mark indicates that at
this stage in Jesus' ministry the disciples are not essentially different from
His opponents, who also fail to recognize His unique character and exhibit
hardness of heart. The proper framework for understanding this unusual episode
is provided by the Old Testament. There the power of the Lord over seas and
rivers, storms and wind, is repeatedly proclaimed. As the creator of the sea
God subdues it and treads upon the waves in demonstration of His majesty.
Because He is the Lord men do not need to be afraid no matter how the sea may
rage or the wind blow. Jesus' appearance on the
Confront Traditionalism: Mark 7:8-9,13.
 You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men."  And he said to them, "You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!  thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do." [ESV]
[8-9] The quotation from Isaiah 29:13 rightly defines hypocrite as one who voices lofty and even noble sentiments that are divorced from the intentions of the heart. With regard to the oral tradition, the Pharisees substitute interpretations of the law for the law itself, indeed interpretations at variance with the intent of the law. It would be a mistake to assume that in calling the Pharisees hypocrites Jesus accuses them of lack of dedication. In the judgment of both Jesus and Mark they were gravely mistaken in the course they pursued, but they were not either superficial or uncommitted. On the contrary, it was their commitment to the oral tradition – and Jesus’ equal commitment to recovering the intent of the written law – that made their differences so earnest. In verses 8-9 Jesus sets the oral interpretation in acid contrast to God’s will. The tradition of men is declared your tradition in contrast to the revealed commandments of God or the word of God. The present tense of the verbs in these verses implies that the Pharisees continue to uphold human traditions and continue to reject the commandments of God. The oral tradition is thus exposed and censured as a willful substitution of human contrivance for the word and will of God.
 The example of Corban brings Jesus’ critique of the oral tradition to concrete expression. Corban, from the Hebrew word for offering, was a rabbinic custom derived from the practice of devoting particular goods to the Lord. Corban was similar to the concept of deferred giving. Today a person may will property to a charity at their death, though retaining possession over the property and the proceeds accruing from it until then. In the case of Corban, a person could dedicate goods to God and withdraw them from ordinary use, although retaining control over them himself. In the example of verse 11, a son declares his property Corban, which at his death would pass into the possession of the temple. In the meantime, however, the son retains control over the property, and his control deprives his parents of the support that otherwise would have been derived from the property in their old age. Thus the son went through the formality of vowing something to God, not that he may give it to God, but in order to prevent some other person from having it. The practice of Corban resulted in egregious casuistry by annulling a moral commandment of the Torah (honor of parents) by a ritual practice of the oral tradition (Corban). The repeated use of the pronoun you in verses 12-13 reveals that in promoting Corban the rabbis are knowingly perpetrating a moral casuistry. Corban is not simply a bad apple in the barrel, whose removal would salvage the whole lot. Rather, it typifies a comprehensive perversion promoted by the attitudes and methods of the Pharisees and scribes: and many such things you do. The verb do is present tense, signifying that Corban is not an anomaly but standard procedure among Pharisees.
Questions for Discussion:
1. How do the people of Jesus' hometown respond to His teaching? Why do they respond in this way? What is the mystery of the kingdom of God? What is the greatest obstacle to faith? When you share the gospel with someone, why do some people believe while others become defensive and reject Jesus?
2. What did the disciples fail to understand in the miracles of the feeding of the five thousand and the walking on the water? Where was their focus? Where should it have been? What three things can we learn from Mark's concluding explanation in 6:51-52?
3. Why did Jesus respond so strongly against the oral traditions of the Pharisees? How do these oral traditions interfere with following the teaching of God's word? Are there any "traditions of men" that you are following in your life?
The Gospel According to Mark, James Edwards, Eerdmans.
The Gospel According to Mark,