Category Archives: gospel of mark

What Shall I Do?

As he was going out into the way, one ran to him, knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” – Mark 10:17 (WEB)

I’ve been journeying through the Gospel of Mark this year, spending about 3 weeks a chapter before moving on. I’m now in chapter 10, and have been camped out in the passage about the rich young ruler. Over the last few weeks, I’ve looked at the commentaries and listened to a bunch of sermons on this passage. I’m not quite sure why I’ve fixated on it the way I have but a few things come to mind.

There is perhaps no greater question that a human being can ask than the one that this young man asks of Jesus here. He was obviously someone who took great care in many things of his life and you can probably imagine him having a quite orderly way about him. He knew the Scriptures, being quick to answer Jesus that regarding the commandments, “Teacher, I have observed all these things from my youth” (10:20). Unlike some of the comments and sermons I’ve seen and heard on this verse, I picture this young man being in earnest when he said this, rather than boastful or arrogant. Jesus Himself saw something different in this young man, as we are told in the next verse, “Jesus looking at him loved him”. I can picture a faint smile on Jesus’ face when hearing this reply. But Jesus saw in him what He sees in so many of us. There is often something (and often more than one thing) that is so part of our identity that we can’t see ourselves living without it. In this man’s case, it was his wealth for sure, and quite possibly also his ruling status. It’s speculated that at that time he was a ruler in the synagogue. One of the first things we are asked when we meet someone new is “What do you do?” This answer appeared to have meant everything to this man. And he simply wasn’t ready yet to let it go.

In his Confessions, Augustine famously said in prayer to God, “Give me chastity and continency, only not yet.” I think in the back of his mind, this young man was thinking along these lines. He cared enough about his soul that he sought Jesus out to ask him, “What shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” But Jesus, sensing that this was another who was “not far from the kingdom of God”, saw the last stranglehold on the man’s life would be his toughest to let go, “…and he went away sorrowful, for he was one who had great possessions” (10:22).

The Bible is silent on what ultimately happened to this man. I see glimpses of hope that this man came to the end of himself eventually and placed his trust in Christ later on. We can’t know for sure of course. But regardless, this story is one that is worth our deep reflection. In Luke 5, we read the accounts of Peter, James, John, and Levi, as they encounter Jesus in the flesh as this man did. Their response, however, was different – “… they left everything, and followed him” (v. 11 & 28).

God knows there are things in my life that are so ingrained that it will take nothing less than the power of the Holy Spirit to purge them for good. At times, they feel like a death grip. I’ve asked, as the rich young ruler did, “what shall I do?” and yet, like him, have not always liked the answer that God has given me. But Jesus does not settle for rearranging the furniture of our lives. He levels the structure and builds in His own way. This is unsettling. However, for those of us who, by His grace, have been called to Him, can be confident that He also looks at us and loves us. He is patient with us, not wishing that any should perish but for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).


Opening Our Eyes

“Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from your law.” – Psalm 119:18 (NASB)

I find that whenever my Bible reading goes into a rut that turning to Psalm 119 is a great tonic. Here we find 176 verses that meditate on the wonder of God’s Word. The psalmist asks God to open his eyes in the verse above, and I find this to be a great prayer as I open my Bible.

In the 8th chapter of Mark’s Gospel, Jesus and His disciples come to Bethsaida, where Jesus heals a blind man. After Jesus spits on his eyes and lays hands on him, the man sees partially and states in verse 24, “I see men, for I see them like trees, walking around.” Then Jesus lays His hands on him again, and the man’s sight is restored in full. I’ve often wondered why this healing takes place in two stages. But I can identify with the man after he is healed partially. There are so many things that I see and focus my time on that are of no lasting value, yet many of God’s truths seem cloudy. God’s truths seem like those hazy trees, and then it’s only after allowing God’s Word to penetrate through the mist that I can see again and remember His great promises. The longer I go without focusing on God’s Word intently – as the psalmist does so extensively in Psalm 119 – the hazier it is when I try to see. Verse 18 from this wonderful Psalm, and the account in Mark 8, reminds me of the importance of this.

The Daily News

“But when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be troubled; for such things must happen, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be earthquakes in various places, and there will be famines and troubles. These are the beginnings of sorrows.” 

– Mark 13:7-8 (NKJV)

One aspect of Christian television that I’ve found interesting (to say the least) is the number of people who attempt to accurately predict the end times, even to the day. I read recently that someone is predicting that May 21 of this year will be the day the world we know it ends (which is an amendment of their earlier prediction of a date in 1994). I’ve found these types of predictions to be odd for someone who claims to adhere to the Word of God, since Jesus Himself stated in Mark 13:32, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” I would ask someone how they would reconcile Jesus’ statement here with their own predictions that point to a certain date. What is this based on?

I will say though that I can’t remember a time when the daily news seemed so troubling. The conflicts and uprising in Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Syria are difficult to get a handle on. Recent earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand have left a trail of sorrow and unimaginable loss. Many Americans kept a watchful eye on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill last year (which now in light of recent events looks like a blip on the radar) and are now worrying about the effects of radiation from the disaster in Japan. On a much smaller scale, the recession here in the U.S., which many experts believed should have ended by now, still seems to lag on, with many folks struggling to find good jobs or out of work entirely. It’s hard to determine what really is ‘breaking news’ these days with events happening so quickly.

Since becoming a Christian I haven’t spent a great deal of time thinking about prophecy and end times. Reading Revelation actually gets harder each time I read it, not easier. I am wondering now though if we are really entering the latter stages of this world as we know it. I’m sure it’s possible that other generations may have thought this as well – the Civil War here in the U.S. 150 years ago could well have triggered the same kind of thinking, especially being so close to home.

So what are we clinging to and where are we placing our trust? When we look at our day-to-day activity and how we plan what we do, is the basis of our trust really here? “And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” (1 John 2:17). Through all of the sadness and trouble that seems to surround us these days, we would all do well to take a step back and evaluate what our foundation is. If it is not on the Lord Jesus, we are all in great danger and sadly deceived.

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.”

– Luke 6:46-49 (ESV)

The Care of Many Doctors

“She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse.” – Mark 5:26 (NIV)

The story in Mark 5 of “The Dead Girl and a Sick Woman” is one of my favorites in the Gospels. The sick woman here is described as someone “who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years” (Mark 5:25) and apparently had exhausted her money and probably her energy in attempts to be cured of her disease. I can imagine her trudging to her mirror, day after day, and looking at her reflection and wondering when relief for her disease and her suffering would ever come. We’re not told specifically if she had advance notice that Jesus would be coming through her area. But if she was in fact told He was coming, I can also imagine her looking in that mirror in the morning of the day she was to be healed, and maybe, finally, seeing a hint of a smile to go along with her tears. What great faith she had, to think only that “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” (Mark 5:28). Her faith of course was rewarded with physical healing, and with a wonderful pronouncement from Jesus Himself – “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

Many of us search for a cure for what is ailing us, and many (like myself) spend years looking for it in the wrong places. I used to read many self-help books and motivational CDs and tapes, with titles like “Live Your Dreams” and “Awaken The Giant Within” – all in an effort to help my own self-esteem and worth. There are folks who exhort us to just “Believe in yourself !” and all will be well.

For argument’s sake, let’s go down that path for a moment. Take that motto “believe in yourself” and size it up with what the Bible tells us:

  • “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” – Jeremiah 17:9 (ESV)
  • “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” – Genesis 6:5 (ESV)
  • “All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” – Romans 3:12 (ESV)
  • “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.” – Mark 7:21-22 (ESV)

That’s quite a list. So to “believe in ourselves” means we must affirm what the Bible says in the above verses and in many other places. How does that look ? Does it seem like a “cure” for what ails us can be found from within ? As Albert Mohler once said, “Most believe that what their problem is, is something that has happened to them – and their solution is going to be found within. In other words, they believe they have an alien problem that is to be resolved with an inner solution….when the Gospel says that what we have is an inner problem, and the only solution is an alien righteousness.”

Friends, the answer, the cure to what ails us is not inside of us. After we have gone through “the care of many doctors” and gurus and self-help coaches, there is only one place to turn – to the Great Physician Himself, Jesus Christ. If we go to Him, and fully acknowledge by faith that our cure can only be found in His shed blood at the Cross of Calvary, we too can experience the healing of the sick woman in Mark 5. His cure though is for our ultimate disease, the sickness of sin.

“I reached out
I just reached out
for the hem of His garment
and everything changed.”
– Bethany Dillon