Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ as recorded by John Mark. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses fourteen through twenty-nine of the sixth chapter. When you come to this particular passage of scripture you will find what begins as an account concerning Jesus the Christ and yet transitions to an account of John the Baptist. As you begin reading this passage of scripture you will find something very specific being written concerning the dame of Jesus and the reports that began to be circulated concerning Him. In order to understand and get a true sense of that which is written and contained within this passage of scripture if is necessary to journey back to the fourteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew, for its In they particular passage where we find a specific detail mentioned that is implied within this passage yet not implicitly presented. If you journey back to the fourteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ you will find the same account concerning Jesus the Christ, although there is a noticeable and marked difference between the two—namely, the fact that Matthew uses the word “fame” when describing the report that was circulating around and concerning Jesus the Christ. When Matthew was writing concerning this particular time during the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ you will find Him describing the fact that the fame of Jesus continued to mount and continued to circulate within the surrounding towns, villages, cities and regions. As the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ continued we find His fame continuing to grow and continuing to expand as men and women begin to hear of what great and what wonderful works He was performing within and among the hearts and lives of men. It is absolutely incredible to read the New Testament gospel of Mark, for within the gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ as written and recorded by John Mark we are continually brought face to face with the perception concerning Jesus Christ, which for the most part has been astonishment and amazement. As early as the first chapter of this gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ we find men and women in Capernaum being astonished with and by His doctrine, for He taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes and teachers of the Law. One of the earliest perceptions we find within the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ is one of astonishment concerning the doctrine of Jesus the Christ.
As you continue reading the gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ as written and recorded by John Mark you will find that the opinion of and the opinion concerning Jesus the Christ continues to grow and continues to impress and amaze people within the surrounding cities, towns and villages. What would start and begin with a feeling and sense of astonishment concerning the doctrine would continue to grow and expand concerning Jesus, for as you continue to read the first two chapters of this particular gospel you will find a clear transition from astonishment at the doctrine of Jesus to amazement at the authority and power which He exercised among men. What would begin and start with astonishment concerning doctrine would transition to an amazement with the authority and the power Jesus the Christ walked in among men—authority and power which was displayed in two different ways within the first two chapters. If you take the time to read the first two chapters of the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ you will find that immediately after we read of the astonishment concerning the doctrine of Jesus we read of a man with an unclean spirit present within the synagogue there in Capernaum. On this particular day we find Jesus not only rebuking the unclean spirit, but we also find Jesus driving and casting the evil and unclean spirit forth out of the man. Immediately following the rebuking and driving out of this unclean spirit we find those within the synagogue transitioning from astonishment at the doctrine of Jesus to now being amazed at the authority and power He exercised and demonstrated among men. Not only did He teach them as one having authority, and not like the scribes and teachers of the Law, but we also find Him now exercising authority over unclean spirits and driving them out from among men. What tremendous authority and power Jesus displayed among men as we not only find His authority over the unclean spirits, but we find the demons and unclean spirits present upon the earth at that time trembling before Jesus the Christ. Within the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ it is true that we find Him exercising authority and dominion over unclean spirits, but we also find the unclean spirits trembling in fear before Jesus the Christ. In other words—not only did He exercise authority over them, but He also struck fear within the hearts and beings of every unclean spirit that was present in the earth during and at that time.
Within the first chapter of the New Testament gospel of Mark we begin with astonishment concerning the doctrine of Jesus Christ, for He taught the people as one having authority and not as the scribes and teachers of the Law did. What’s more, is that we find and read concerning Jesus the Christ His authority over unclean spirits, as He not only rebuked the unclean spirit that was present within the man in the synagogue at Capernaum, but also commanding it to come out from this man and no longer oppress, torment and captivate him. As you transition to the second chapter of this same New Testament book you will find b account of Jesus the Christ continuing, as He once again entered into the synagogue there in Capernaum. This time, however, there wasn’t a man with an unclean spirit present within the synagogue but a man with a withered and deformed hand. Within this passage of scripture we find Jesus once more teaching within the synagogue there in Capernaum, and this time—not only was there a need which was present among the people, but there was also suspicion concerning and surrounding Jesus. Moreover—despite the fact that there was a need among those who were present within the synagogue, there was suspicion concerning Jesus as there were also on this day scribes who were present among those there in the synagogue who were keeping a careful eye on Jesus Christ considering how this particular day was the sabbath day. The suspicion and curiosity that was present on this day surrounded and centered upon whether or not Jesus would heal this man with the withered hand, and whether or not He would do it on the sabbath day. I am absolutely amazed when I read the New Testament gospel account of Jesus Christ as written and recorded by John. Mark, for within it—not only do we find astonishment and amazement, but we also find suspicion and curiosity. Within the first chapter of the gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ we find astonishment at the doctrine of Jesus the Christ, and we find amazement at the authority and power He exercised over unclean spirits, but once we come to the second chapter of the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ as written and recorded by Mark we find something beyond astonishment and amazement, for once the scribes and teachers of the law are introduced, astonishment and amazement are also met with us suspicion and curiosity, as those scribes which were present among the men and women in the synagogue watched Jesus’ actions and movements carefully and with great scrutiny in order that they might see whether or not He would in fact heal on the Sabbath day. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand that which is found within these passages of Scripture, for it serves as the foundation of that which we find in the latter portion of the sixth chapter. In fact, I would like to draw your attention to the actual text that is found within the first two chapters of this New Testament gospel account, and concerning the opinions of men, as well as the report concerning Him that was being circulated:
“And they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the sabbath day He entered into the synagogue, and taught. And they were astonished at His doctrine: for He taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes. And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? Art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God. And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him. And when the unclean spirit had thorn him, and cried with a loud voice, he came out of him. And they were all amazed, insomuch that they questioned among themselves, saying What thing is this? What new doctrine is this? For with authority commandeth He even the unclean spirits, and they do obey Him. And immediately His fame spread abroad throughout all the region round about Galilee” (Mark 1:21-28).
“And again He entered into Capernaum, after some days; and it was noised that He was in the house. And straightway many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door: and He preached the word unto them. And they come unto Him, bringing one sick of the palsy, which was borne of four. And when they could not come night unto Him for the press, they uncovered the roof where He was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay. When Jesus saw their faith, He said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee. But there were certain of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts, Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God only? And immediately Jesus perceived in His spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, He said unto them, Why reason ye these things in your hearts? Whether it is easier to say to the sick of the palsy, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (HE saith to the sick of the palsy) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house. And immediately He arose, and took up the bed, and went forth before them all; insomuch that they were all amazed, and glorified God, saying, We never saw it on this fashion” (Mark 2:1-12).
“And He entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand. And they watched Him, whether He would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse Him. And He saith unto the man which had the withered hand, Stand forth. And He saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? To save life, or to kill? But they held their peace. And when He ha looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, He saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other. And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him” (Mark 3:1-6).
As I sit here this morning and consider these passages of Scripture, I am not only gripped by the fact that in the same house of worship there can be both suspicion and curiosity concerning Jesus, as well as astonishment and amazement; but I am also captivated with and by the fact that religion cannot hide from the presence, the understanding, the discernment and knowledge of Jesus. When I read the words which are found and contained within the New Testament gospel of Mark, I can’t help but be confronted with and by the fact that not only could need not be hidden and concealed from the presence of Jesus, as not only did Jesus encounter the man with the withered hand, but Jesus also encountered the man with the unclean spirit. In the first chapter we find the account of the man with the unclean spirit who was also in the synagogue there in Capernaum, while in the third chapter we find the account of the man with the withered hand who was also present within the synagogue. In the second chapter we find Jesus present within the house, and it being noised that he was in the house. So intense was the report concerning Jesus being in the house that the report brought men and women from all over to hear and listen to Him speak there in the house. So full was the house that there was no room even before and around the door to hear and listen to Jesus speak. On this particular day, however, there was a man who was sick with the palsy who was borne of four in order that he might be brought into the presence of Jesus and hopefully receive healing and wholeness within his physical body. When the four who had borne this man saw that they could not get to Jesus because of the press that was before and around Him, they brought this man to the roof of the house where they would uncover the roof, and once it had been broken up, they would let the man down before Jesus in the presence of all those who were present on this particular day. Pause and consider for a moment the great faith and the great commitment and dedication these four had—not only to bear this man from the place where he lay, but also bring this man unto and into the presence of Jesus. What’s more, is consider how these men would not be denied of getting their friend in the presence of and before Jesus, and not only did they bring this man to where Jesus was, but they also hoisted him up to the roof of the house, engaged in manual labor to break apart the roof, and once they had broken through the roof, they let the man down in the presence of all those which were present in the house, and before and in the presence of Jesus. These men would and could not be denied of getting their friend and companion into the presence of Jesus, for they didn’t bring him this far to be denied. Scripture isn’t clear how long and how far these four had borne this man, but one thing we do know is that these men would and could not be denied a miracle within the life of the one whom they had brought into the presence of Jesus.
What I find to be absolutely incredible concerning this passage of Scripture is that religion and the religious spirit could not be hidden and even concealed from and within the presence of Jesus. As you read this particular passage of Scripture you will find that when the scribes who were there heard Jesus declare unto the man that his sins were forgiven him, they immediately reasoned within their hearts with suspicion concerning Jesus declaring that the sins of this man were forgiven him. John Mark records that immediately after the scribes reasoned these things within their hearts and minds, Jesus perceived their thoughts and suspicion within His own spirit. I happen to find this to be absolutely incredible and captivating, for while within this gospel we find that one with an unclean spirit, and one with a withered hand could not be hidden and concealed from the presence and knowledge of Jesus, neither could the suspicion of the religious spirit be hidden and concealed within the presence of Jesus. I absolutely love how Mark writes and records Jesus perceiving within His spirit the thoughts that were reasoned within the hearts of the scribes which were present on this particular day, for it brings us face to face with the fact that religion and the religious spirit cannot hide from the discernment and knowledge of Jesus. The scribes and those religious folk which were present on this particular day reasoned among themselves concerning Jesus’ declaration of forgiveness of sins, and yet their thoughts and the intents of their heart could not be hidden and concealed from the presence of Jesus. It is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand this, for there is nothing hidden that cannot and will not be revealed, and there is nothing concealed that will not be made manifest. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which are found in the fourth chapter of the New Testament epistle which was written unto the Hebrews. Beginning with the twelfth verse of the chapter we find the author of this epistle writing concerning the word of God and how powerful it truly is, and then transitioning to an incredibly powerful statement concerning the word of God. Consider if you will the words which the author of the epistle unto the Hebrews wrote in the fourth chapter of this particular book beginning with the twelfth verse of the chapter:
“For the Word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do” (Hebrews 4:12-13).
The author of the epistle written unto the Hebrews emphatically stated and declared that the word of God is in fact quick and powerful, and it is sharper than any two-edged sword, for it pierces even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and it is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. What’s more, is that the author of the epistle which was written unto the Hebrews would go on to declare that there is no creature that is not manifest in the sight of the living God, but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we all have to do. The author of the epistle which was written unto the Hebrews was very clear and very specific that the word of God can and does in fact discern the thoughts and intents of the heart, and we find this to be true in the case of the man who was sick with the palsy. When Jesus declared unto this man that his sins were forgiven, His words were immediately met with suspicion from the scribes and those which were present on this particular day, for they reasoned within themselves that Jesus was guilty of blasphemy, for only God could forgive sins. What is so incredibly remarkable concerning this particular passage of Scripture is that their suspicion—the thoughts and intents of their heart—were made manifest before and in the presence of Jesus. Even more than this, is that not only was it immediately perceived and recognized by Jesus the Christ, but He also immediately addressed and called it out. One of the things I absolutely love about the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ is that He was never afraid to address religion and the religious spirit during the days of His life and ministry. Not only do we find record of Jesus being aware of the presence of the religious spirit, and aware of religion, but we find Jesus also being unafraid to address and call out religion on the spot. In fact, there is an entire chapter within the New Testament gospel of Matthew which details and describes Jesus calling out and addressing religion and the religious spirit which was present during His day. The entire twenty-third chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew was centered upon the tremendous reality that religion and the religious spirit could not hide from the presence of Jesus, and that the religious spirit was also exposed and addressed by Jesus. One of the most fascinating facets of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ is that Jesus was not afraid, nor was He ashamed to call out and address religion and the religious spirit. What’s more, is that neither religion, nor the religious spirit could hide itself within the presence of Jesus, for Jesus was very much aware of the presence of religion in the house, in the synagogue, and within the hearts and minds of men. When Jesus perceived within Himself the scribes reasoned among themselves concerning the authority He exercised to forgive sins, he immediately called out and addressed their errant thinking in order that He might expose and confront it head on.
When you continue reading the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ as written and recorded by John Mark you will find in the opening few verses of the sixth chapter Jesus entering into the synagogue within His own town of Nazareth. What begins with many hearing Him being astonished concerning where He received His doctrine, and where He received such wisdom and such mighty works would quickly transition to offense, as those present within Nazareth could not get past the fact that He was the son of Joseph the carpenter, and that His brothers and sisters were present there among them. Within the New Testament gospel of Mark we find astonishment at the doctrine of Jesus, we find amazement at the authority and power of Jesus, we find suspicion concerning the works and actions of Jesus, and now we are met with offense at Jesus—offense which was fostered and bred by familiarity with Jesus and with His family and those closest to Him. How incredible it is to think that what began with astonishment and amazement could quickly transition to suspicion of religion and the offense of familiarity. THE SUSPICION OF RELIGION & THE OFFENSE OF FAMILIARITY! We must be absolutely careful when we think about and consider Jesus, for if we aren’t careful it is very easy to allow ourselves to get caught up as the scribes did in the suspicion of religion—suspicion which ultimately and inevitably leads to wanting to accuse, and ultimately destroy Jesus. It is absolutely imperative that we recognize and understand that any suspicion concerning Jesus—any suspicion within our hearts concerning the authority and power of Jesus—can and may very well lead us into the place where we seek to accuse, and ultimately destroy Jesus. What’s more, is that there is a great need within our hearts to guard and protect against familiarity with Jesus, for offense with Jesus can limit, hinder and restrict His ability to exercise authority and power within our lives. John Mark writes and records that the offense of those within Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth limited and restricted His ability to work many miracles among them in their midst, save lay His hands on a few sick, and heal them. In fact, the exact words which Mark writes and records concerning those in Nazareth were as follows: “And He could there do no mighty work, save that He laid His hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them. And He marveled because of their unbelief. And He went round about the villages teaching” (Mark 6:5-6). There within His own hometown of Nazareth Jesus could do no mighty work except lay His hands on a few sick folk and heal them because of their unbelief. Please make note of this within your heart and mind, for what began as astonishment quickly transitioned to offense, and offense when left unchecked would lead to hardness of heart and unbelief among those who were present within Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth. While it is true that we must be incredibly careful to guard and protect ourselves from the suspicion of religion, we must also guard our hearts from the offense of familiarity, for the offense of familiarity can produce within us a hardness of heart, as well as unbelief within our hearts.
Now that we have considered the report and opinion concerning Jesus Christ up until this point, it is now necessary that we transition to the passage at hand in the sixth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Mark. It is within the latter portion of the sixth chapter of this gospel that we read of Herod hearing of Jesus the Christ, for His name and fame was spread abroad. Within he latter portion of the sixth chapter of the gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ we find Herod formulating his own opinion of Jesus based on the reports he had heard concerning Jesus the Christ from those within the surrounding region, cities, villages and towns. Within the latter portion of this sixth chapter we find that Herod thought and perceived that Jesus was John the Baptist risen from the dead, while others perceived that He was Elias, or perhaps one of the prophets. This actually points back to the encounter which Jesus had with His disciples when coming to the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, for when He and His disciples were there He asked them who men said that He the Son of man was. The disciples initially responded by declaring unto Him that some thought He was Elias, some thought He was Jeremias, while others thought that He was one of the prophets. Immediately after hearing the opinions of others, Jesus presented a different question unto the disciples, for He then transitioned to asking them whom they said, and whom they believed Him to be. Immediately Simon spoke up and emphatically declared that He was Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living God. In response to Simon’s bold declaration and profession of faith, Jesus declared unto Peter that upon this rock He would build His church, and the gates of hell should not prevail against it. What we find in the latter portion of the sixth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Mark is actually quite intriguing and powerful, for within it we find the opinions of Jesus the Christ being met with the opinion of Herod himself. We dare not miss and lose sight of this reality, for one thing we must recognize and understand concerning the fame of Jesus is that it naturally produces within the hearts and minds of men opinions concerning who He really is. If there is one thing the gospels reveal unto us who read them, it’s that when we speak of the fame of Jesus the Christ we must naturally recognize and understand that with fame concerning Jesus, and with reports concerning Jesus, there will always be various opinions concerning who Jesus the Christ truly is. Herod heard reports concerning Jesus, for His name and His fame was being spread abroad, and it would eventually reach the palace of the king there in the region of Judaea.
While we do read within this passage of Scripture words concerning Herod’s opinion of Jesus the Christ, we also find within this passage the account of the beheading of John the Baptist. Within this passage of Scripture we find the account of John the Baptist being put in prison by Herod because of his denouncement and condemnation of Herod taking and having his brother Philip’s wife as his own wife. Mark records—just as the apostle Matthew did—how Herod had thrown John into prison because of his condemnation and rebuke of his adulterous affair with his brother’s wife. What’s more, is that within this passage we not only read of Herod’s casting John into prison because of his rebuke and condemnation of his relationship with his brother’s wife, but we also find Herodias herself having a quarrel against John the Baptist, and desiring to kill him. So intense was her hatred, so intense was her animosity, and so great was her offense and quarrel with John the Baptist that merely being cast into prison wasn’t enough, for she sought that he might be put to death. What’s more, is that the actual rendering of the word “quarrel” in this passage of Scripture is that of an inward grudge. Herodias harbored such an inward grudge toward and against John the Baptist that she didn’t merely want to allow him to remain alive within prison, but sought that he be put to death. I have to admit that this is absolutely and incredibly interesting, for what we ultimately find within this passage of Scripture is not necessarily a quarrel with a man alone, but a quarrel with conviction and a quarrel with the divine principles found and contained within the word of God and within the law of Moses. What we find within Herodias was not merely a quarrel and offense with John the Baptist alone as a man, but actually with the word and message of conviction. WHAT QUARREL WOULD YOU HAVE WITH CONVICTION? WHAT OFFENSE WOULD YOU HAVE WITH CONVICTION? Within this passage of Scripture we find Herodias harboring within her heart such an intense hatred toward John, and such an vehement hostility toward him because of the conviction which he displayed, that she actually sought for occasion to put him to death. It’s worth noting that religion sought to put Jesus to death because they were offended with His works, and were offended with His teachings, while Herodias sought to put John the Baptist to death because of an offense, a quarrel and grudge with conviction. What we must recognize and understand concerning this passage of Scripture is that Herodias’ ‘grudge and offense wasn’t really with John the Baptist, but was with the word and message of conviction. The quarrel and inward grudge she had was not with a mere man alone, but with the message that man held to and proclaimed among men.
As I sit here this morning and consider the words which are found within this passage of Scripture, I can’t help but be directly confronted with whether or not we ourselves have a quarrel and inner grudge with conviction within our hearts and lives. I am finding myself asking the Sprit of the Lord whether or not I can truly handle the word and message of conviction, or whether or not I harbor an inner grudge and hostility toward conviction. Permit me to ask you how you deal with and how you handle the word and message of conviction within your heart and mind when it is presented unto you. When you hear the word and message of conviction within your heart, and when your heart is provoked by the truth that is contained within the divine word of God—how do you respond and how do you react? Do you respond with open hostility and animosity towards the word and message of conviction, or do you embrace, welcome and receive it. Herodias heard the word and message of contrition, and rather than accepting and receiving it within her heart, she allowed herself to be offended with and offended by conviction. OFFENDED BY CONVICTION! Permit me to ask you if you are one who is offended with and offended by conviction. Permit me to ask you if when you hear the word and message of conviction you allow your heart to grow offended with and by the word, and you immediately seek to drive out that conviction rather than receiving and embracing it. Herodias—rather than embracing the conviction which proceeded from the word of God—allowed her heart to grow offended and angered, and sought to drive out and put to death that conviction. What we find through Herodias’ desire to put John to death is that heart that not only harbors a grudge and an offense with conviction, but also that heart which seeks to do whatever it can, and whatever it will to drive out the conviction of the word of God. Through the actions of Herodias we find that heart which harbors a grudge toward conviction, and rather than embracing conviction and allowing it to bring holiness and righteousness, instead seeks to drive it out and put it to death. Allow me to ask you w heather or not you are one who is presently holding a grudge and offense with and toward conviction, and rather than allowing it to directly challenge and change you from the inside out, you seek to drive it out and put it to death. Within this passage of Scripture we find a tremendous word of caution and word of warning concerning how we handle and how we react to conviction when it is presented unto us within our hearts and within our lives. It is my prayer that we as the people of God are able to move past any grudge and any hostility that we have with conviction, and that we would allow it to produce within us the righteousness and holiness which the living God desires from and within us, and that we don’t seek to destroy and put it to death within our hearts and lives.