Devotions on Mark 6:1-29
January 25 – 31, 2016
Monday, January 25, 2016,
“On the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded” (Mark 6:2).
Kyle hadn’t darkened the door of a church for a very long time. Yet he found himself sitting in a pew next to the woman with whom he was falling in love. She had been insistent. Kyle knew that her faith was very important to her. If their relationship was going to move forward, she had told him, he would need to attend worship services with her and give serious consideration to what he believed about God. Kyle had attended church when he was a kid. His family had been members of a strict, fundamentalist congregation. Kyle couldn’t take the judgmental, condemning God that was preached by the congregation’s pastor. He stopped going as soon as he left home. Kyle’s girlfriend’s church was different. The pastor talked about God’s love and God’s abundant grace. Kyle was amazed at what the pastor said.
When Jesus began to teach in the synagogue the people were astounded. Jesus’ message was different. All the people had heard from their religious leaders were exhortations to live perfect lives and to keep the law flawlessly. They were always told how God was displeased with them and that any misfortune was the result of God’s displeasure. Jesus’ message was different. He told the people that the kingdom of God was upon them. This kingdom was a powerful kingdom, but its power was not used to dominate but to serve. The God of this kingdom was a God of love and not a God of judgment. Jesus’ words were balm to the people’s souls.
Too often we listen to the voices that tell us of our failures and of God’s displeasure with us. These words are not from Jesus, though. When Jesus speaks to us he reminds us of God’s steadfast love, unconditional forgiveness and overwhelming grace. No matter how often we hear these words they amaze and astound us.
Loving God, Make us deaf to the voices that speak of your judgment. Immersed in your love, empower us to live boldly and to serve others. Amen.
Tuesday, January 26, 2016
“Is not this the carpenter, the Son of Mary” (Mark 6:3).
The people were astounded at Jesus’ message, yet some sought reasons not to believe it. The easiest for them was to remind themselves that Jesus grew up in their town as an ordinary kid. Jesus had laughed and played with their children. Jesus was not extraordinary and he was the son of Mary—a child born out-of-wedlock. “How could anything good come from such a great sin?” they asked themselves. The people were convinced that God couldn’t use the ordinary, everyday and mundane.
People will always find reasons to reject the good news of Jesus Christ. They didn’t believe Jesus. The people remembered Jesus as a dirty faced, snotty nose kid and they didn’t see him as the Son of God. As disciples of Jesus, try as we might, people will all too readily see us as imperfect, ordinary individuals who are both sinners and saints. Some may find this as a reason not to believe. We are persistent, though, not in our efforts to become perfect, but in our intentionality to share God’s love and grace through our words and actions. There are some who will hear the good news and believe.
Tenacious Lord, you have never given up on your creation and you have never stopped loving us. Empower us that we may never flag in our zeal to share your love and grace with others. Amen.
Wednesday, January 27, 2016
“And he could do no deed of power there” (Mark 6:5).
It is difficult to find the balance between faith and grace. Some Christians will find in Jesus’ experience with the people of his home town—that he could not accomplish great works because of their lack of faith—proof that faith is needed for God to work. If someone is sick and doesn’t recover, even though there was prayer, these people will blame it on the individual’s lack of faith. This leaves the person in a quandary of attempting to acquire more faith. On the other side of the balance are people who focus solely on God’s grace and downplay the role of faith.
It is true that Jesus’ ministry was restrained in his home town of Nazareth. Most of the people didn’t ask Jesus to heal them, cast out the demons in their lives or to calm the storms. The people didn’t recognize their needs nor did they admit that Jesus could minister to their situations. Only a few people came to him for help. Those who did were touched by God’s grace. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are well aware of our needs—sicknesses that need to be healed, fears that need to be quenched and sins that need to be forgiven. In faith—sometimes a shaky faith—we enter into God’s presence. Our hope is not in our faith, but in God’s overwhelming grace.
Gracious Lord, we come to you in faith. Touch us and make us new. Amen.
Thursday, January 28, 2016
“He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff” (Mark 6:8).
Veronica was a person who liked to be prepared and never traveled light. Her checked bags were frequently overweight and she was always attempting to cram an overstuffed piece of luggage into the overhead compartment in the plane. Veronica’s desire to be capable of meeting any contingency robbed her of the joy of travel and literally weighed her down and limited her freedom.
Jesus sent his disciples into the “mission field” with few supplies. It isn’t that Jesus was looking for little “McGuyvers” who could overcome any problem with a piece of string, a wad of gum and a dust ball. Jesus wanted his disciples to learn from their experience that God would provide for their needs wherever they were. The focus of the disciples was on ministry and not on how prepared they were.
Jesus invites us to travel light. As disciples of Jesus our lives do not need to be encumbered with a pile of things. We do not need to prove our worth, seek happiness or impress people with the baubles and bangles of the world. Divested of things we are able to live with greater freedom and an increased ability to focus on the needs of others and of meeting those needs with the gifts and talents with which the Lord has blessed us.
Oh Holy Spirit, we have been called to carry on Jesus’ ministry. Go with us as we enter the world, provide for us and use us to touch the lives of others with the good news of Jesus. Amen.
Friday, January 29, 2016
“So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them” (Mark 6:13).
Aspiring teachers practice-teach for a semester in order to put their head knowledge into practice. Seminary students serve a year on internship so that they can experience what it means to be a pastor. Physicians serve a year or more as a resident so that they can learn their specialty. Jesus sent out his disciples into the countryside where they did what Jesus was doing—casting out demons, anointing and healing the sick and proclaiming the good news that God’s kingdom of love and grace had come.
The Christian life has always been about more than memorizing Bible verses and studying theological doctrines. Living in response to God’s love and grace is living in mission and ministry. Following the example of the disciples and answering the call of Jesus, we go into the countryside seeking justice, standing by the marginalized, forgiving the unforgivable, loving the unlovable and proclaiming the good news of God’s love and grace.
Incarnate God, thank you for calling us to carry on your mission and ministry. Use our lives to touch the lives of others with your love and grace and to honor you. Amen.
Saturday, January 30, 2016
“Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man” (Mark 6:20).
There were times that King Herod did not like what John said to him. Herod bridled at John’s words when John condemned Herod’s adulterous relationship with his brother’s wife. At the same time, Herod was intrigued by what John taught about God’s kingdom and the coming Messiah. While John was in prison Herod would often have John brought into his presence and listen to what John had to say. Above all, John earned Herod’s respect as a righteous and holy man.
Our goal as disciples of Jesus is not to be perfect. That will never happen this side of heaven. Responding to God’s love and grace in our lives we are called to be more than just “one of the guys or gals” or known for the jokes we tell. Our desire is to interact with the people around us in such a way that we are known as people of love, faith, integrity and service. We live so that our lights burn brightly and pierce the darkness around us and that people may experience God’s love and grace in our words and actions.
Powerful Lord, move through us using our lives as unimpeded channels of your love and grace. Amen.
Sunday, January 31, 2016
“She went out and said to her mother, ‘What should I ask for?’ She replied, “The head of John the baptizer’” (Mark 6:24).
There are times when situations in life seem wrong. It is generally accepted that several companies and a few individuals in the banking and financial sectors were responsible for the economic downturn in 2007 and 2008. Motivated by greed these companies and individuals built a financial house of cards that eventually fell. They, however, were able to keep their millions and billions of dollars while millions of people lost jobs and homes. It wasn’t fair and the bad guys appear to have won.
This is certainly the case with John the Baptist. He had done nothing wrong. John had only been true and faithful to his calling to prepare the way of the Lord. John had angered powerful people, though. Herodias took advantage of a seductive daughter, a rash promise and a drunken king to get her revenge and have John the Baptist executed. John’s ministry was cut short and again the bad guys seem to have won.
That’s not Mark’s point of view, though. Mark is not askance at the injustice of Herodias’ actions, nor does he bemoan the fact that John’s ministry came to an early end. Instead Mark views the occurrences of chapter six as fitting together into a divine wholeness that is much bigger than all of its parts. John’s ministry decreased at the same time that Jesus’ ministry was increasing. John prepared the way and Jesus built on the preparations of John.
Things may seem wrong to us, but we may not be able to see the big picture. We get upset over the little things that catch our attention instead of taking inspiration, comfort and hope from the divine wholeness of which we are a part. Instead of crying “foul!” we can celebrate that life is so much bigger than we are and God is in control of it.
Almighty God, use us to right wrongs, establish justice and seek peace. Amen.