Mark 5: Jesus’s cleansing power

In chapter 5 of Mark, we see what it means to usher in God’s kingdom and the power of the good news. Jesus shows his authority over evil spirits, sickness and even death itself. We’ve also previously seen how Jesus has power over sin. It’s Jesus’s power over all of these things that makes him the only candidate to be able to redeem us all forever. He has dominion over evil, sin and death; being able to irradiate it and free his people from it. Furthermore, this chapter reveals how Jesus removes everything that is impure.

First, we see Jesus remove a legion of impure spirits from the possessed man. The man lived in tombs, which automatically made him unclean, but he was also possessed by unclean spirits, which of course was the bigger issue here. He would have been a bloody, bleeding, dirty, ritually unclean , presumably naked mess. Jesus deals with this by allowing the impure spirits enter animals that were considered impure — pigs. (Note, that Jesus did not drive the pigs off the cliffs, the entry of the demons did.) The drowning of the possessed pigs echoed the drowning of Pharaoh’s army. Jesus was the new Moses, defeating the true enemy: the spiritual forces of evil.

In the second half of this chapter, Jesus interacts with two unclean people: one by virtue of her illness, the other because she is dead. However, Jesus is able to change their unclean states into those of being clean.

Therefore, if you ever feel too dirty, unclean or somehow damaged for Jesus, it is unlikely to be the case. You have to be more spectacularly unclean than someone possessed by a hoard of demons, someone who has been bleeding for years, or someone that is dead. So, it is reassuring that Jesus can restore us to cleanliness, no matter how bad it gets.

James 3

This chapter looks at words and wisdom. James continues to explore the idea of the tongue being dangerous. Words are powerful, as it tells us throughout scripture. The universe was born into creation by God’s word, and this power to use our words, although obviously not as strong, is shown in us. Therefore, we must be extremely wise in how we use our words.

However, our tongues are evil and hard to control. We gossip, lie, bad-mouth people. These people we are gossiping about or criticising are inherently praiseworthy, because they are made in the image of God. Therefore, we should seek to encourage, bless and build with our words.

If we produce evil from our lips, then that is the fruit of what we are. Our praises to God are tainted and defiled by this – as the same lips that produced words of evil are attempting to produce pure, good words. It reminds me of Isaiah’s lips being cleansed by the hot coal. We all need that and to humbly come before the throne, asking for our lips to be purified.

We also need to be humble in deeds, as this reveals our wisdom. Wisdom is not merely an academic pursuit, but one that results in goodness, unity and others being encouraged too. Therefore, we need to make sure that our wisdom is used to build the church, not to bring each other down.

Titus 1

The first few verses of Titus are packed full of Biblical truths and also facts about Paul himself. We find this out about Paul:

  • He’s a servant and apostle;
  • He’s furthering the faith of God’s elect;
  • He’s furthering their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness;
  • He has a hope and promise of eternal life;
  • Preaching has been entrusted to him;
  • He is following the command of God

We learn these theological facts too:

  • God elects people;
  • God does not lie;
  • God promised eternal life from before the beginning of time;
  • God brought this to light;
  • God gives commands;
  • God is our saviour.

And all that is in just three verses.

Paul left Titus in Crete to appoint elders. Like in other books, Paul lists the requirements of elders. The list is quite long and I doubt I tick all the boxes (yet).

This chapter also talks about rebuking and silencing those who talk dishonestly. Verse 15 tells us, “To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure.” This is quite confusing, so I used my new subscription to Biblegateway.com to look at their study tools. It is referring to the idea that certain things are pure/impure. But because we have been sanctified by Jesus, these ideas no longer apply to us. And even what could be considered pure would be come impure by those who don’t believe, because they do not have the power of Jesus’ resurrection in them.

1 Timothy 5

This chapter looks at how to look after others within the church. First, it tells us to be gentle when dealing with older men within the church – treating them with the same respect as we are to treat our fathers. Then older women are to be treated as mothers, and younger men and women as brother and sisters. Of course, the church is to be a family of Christ, so we need to actually act that way.

While the majority of the section is focused on the treatment of widows, and how they should behave, there are wider applications from it. First, that the serving of the Lord and doing good deeds is important; these good deeds include the raising of a family. Also, you need to look after your households, or those that have been put in your care by the Lord. This, of course, includes family members (parents, grandparents, etc.), but can also, I think, be extended to other people you share your lives with. In verse 16, it talks about when women have widows in their care. This could be widowed relatives (mother-in-law, etc.) but it sounds like something distinct from verse 8, as this type of relationship has already been mentioned.

We are also to treat church elders with a double honour, because of the work that they do. If they do something wrong, we are to rebuke them, but there is also a public element to this. I think this is to be done in the context of the church family you are in, rather than publicly. We need to take rebuking people serious, but also thoughtfully. I think twitter has led us to be quick to anger and slow to praise, which is the opposite of God’s character.

Verse 22 is somewhat confusing: “Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, and do not share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure.” This is probably one for further study. (Another one on my list of “Biblical things I don’t understand.”)

Verse 23 seems exciting, and seems to tell us to drink wine. Of course, that’s because wine was more sterile than water in those days, and was also often weaker.

The final two verses are a warning and an encouragement: your deeds will be noticed – good and bad; so you need to choose which type of deed you want to be seen for!

1 Thessalonians 4 and 5

Both chapters 4 and 5 of 1 Thessalonians are relatively short, so I decided to combine them. Also, I need to make up for lost time, as I slid off the wagon for a week or so. Many people’s lives have been turned upside. My change in routine has been minimal, which has been enough to sideline my Bible-reading habits. But I will press on.

Verse 1 and 2 of chapter 4 asks the Thessalonians to do more of the same. They’re doing the right things, so Paul simply tells them to do it more and more. I pray that I can do the right things more and more as well. Hopefully, as I do the right things more, it’ll crowd out the opportunities to get it wrong.

Verse 3 says that it is God’s will that we are sanctified. One (correct) reading of this is that we should be obedient to this. However, it also reminds me that God is on my side with this – he wants it to happen and will make it happen if I cooperate and submit myself to him. Therefore, let God’s will be done!

Our purity is rather significant, because we should pursue it and “anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.” This is somewhat trouble and a good reminder of what disobedience to his word actually is. It is an unwillingness to accept God and a desire to reject him.

Verse 11 is somewhat interesting too, especially in the light of megachurch pastors and Christian “celebrities”. God calls us to have a quiet life. Not an outrageous and a loud life. That’s something interesting to think about. It is this that wins the respect of outsiders, not the loud trumpet call and the soap-box evangelism. There is (probably) a place for this and a Biblical reasoning. I’ve yet to wrestle with this idea further. (This is something I love about reading the Bible: when you don’t actually know what it fully entails or means. It just fires up my curiosity.)

The last section of chapter 4 is about believers that have died. These words were meant to be an encouragement to those in Thessalonica. However, they can be an encouragement to us now, especially with the global tragedy of coronavirus.

Chapter 5, again, is relevant to today, but perhaps less encouraging. It talks about how suddenly destruction can come. Christians, however, are to be sober, thoughtful and proactive, even during times of suffering and even on the Day of the Lord.

The final instructions are helpful reminders of what to do, especially during the coronavirus outbreak as well:

  • warn the idle and disruptive,
  • encourage others,
  • help the weak,
  • be patient with everyone,
  • strive to do what is good for everyone,
  • rejoice always,
  • pray continuously,
  • give thanks in all circumstances.

And as we do this, may the grace of God be with us.

Stay safe.