This week we are looking at one of my favorite stories, Mark 5:1-20. To get a more complete picture of what Mark is doing in this section, read Mark 4:35-5:43. Jesus encounters three forces that are completely out of our control: Nature, Spiritual Powers, and Death. There is a question of who Jesus is at the end of the calming of the storm, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” There is a call to faith in the midst of fear. Faith is the belief that God is working in and through Jesus Christ. Hebrews 11:1 defines it as, “confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” We all have things we are afraid of, things that motivate us negatively. What are some areas of your life that are out of your control where your faith needs to be strengthened?
We’re in the season of thanksgiving and over the next few Sunday of November I want to focus on how people respond to Jesus and what it means to live a life of thanksgiving. We all welcome the grace and love Jesus has to offer but am I truly thankful for it in how I live? In how I love others? In how I treat others? In how I love my spouse? In how I treat my family? In how I love God’s Church?
We’ve reached the end! The Book of Revelation is by far one of the most confusing books in the Bible. A lot of debate has swirled around this book and I don’t necessarily intend to sort out those debates. I do want to point to context, writing style, and genre to let you go back and read through Revelation on your own. We’ll get into a deeper discussion in class on Sunday. Please shoot me any questions you would like to discuss from Revelation. I look forward to our time together!
As you read this week, allow yourself to experience the emotions, situations, and responses within the text. From Paul’s farewell to the elders in Ephesus to his final instructions to Timothy, Paul has to spend some time in reflection over his ministry. When he looks back to the church in Corinth, did he build in vain? God is the one who makes things grow, but will what he built withstand the test of fire (1 Cor 3:14-15). Paul’s care and concern for the church throughout his life and especially at the end is inspiring.
There are so many different stories we could focus on in this week’s reading but I want to draw your attention to what drove Paul at the core of his being. Jesus messed up his life and then Paul went through the worst of sufferings (2 Cor. 11:23-28) before finally being beheaded by Nero sometime between 64 and 68 AD. When Paul lists his sufferings in 2 Cor. 11, we must ask where his faith came from that brought about that kind of perseverance.
Rome was the center point of the known world. Caesar was the ruler of all things Rome touched. In this small corner of the empire, a king was born, lived, died, and was resurrected. With the resurrection, Thomas gives the proclamation of all Christians since, “My Lord and my God!” When the early Christians say, “Jesus is Lord!” they are controversially declaring that Caesar is not!
There is a lot more to be said on this topic, looking back to the prophets (Isaiah 11 specifically) and looking forward to the end of Revelation (20-22) but I mostly want to plant these seeds of thought to start the dialogue. We've focused a lot in Christianity on things that are not central to the Gospel and I want to advocate that we focus more on what it means to live out the resurrected life. I want us to be able to say with confidence what Paul says in Philippians 3:10-11, “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.”
How does one gain eternal life? Through Jesus. That’s all. There’s nothing you can do to make God love you more. There’s nothing you can do to make God love you less. God’s love is perfect and perfectly displayed and embodied in and through Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. There is no way to earn your way. If there was a way, Christ died for nothing (Galatians 2:21).