Limiting Miracles: Mark 8:22-26

Focus Passage: Mark 8:22-26 (GNT)

22 They came to Bethsaida, where some people brought a blind man to Jesus and begged him to touch him. 23 Jesus took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village. After spitting on the man’s eyes, Jesus placed his hands on him and asked him,
         Can you see anything?

24 The man looked up and said,
         Yes, I can see people, but they look like trees walking around.

25 Jesus again placed his hands on the man’s eyes. This time the man looked intently, his eyesight returned, and he saw everything clearly. 26 Jesus then sent him home with the order,
         Don’t go back into the village.

Read Mark 8:22-26 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

The big idea I see in this passage, and in this unique healing miracle is this: My lack of faith may limit Jesus’ ability to work miracles in my life.

We can see this idea played out in a few details within Mark’s retelling of this event.

First, other people bring the blind man to Jesus. We can assume they are more interested in seeing a miracle than on seeing this disabled man be healed. We see this idea played out (and perhaps a collective groan/sigh) when Jesus takes the blind man out of the village and away from them.

Next, since other people brought the blind man to Jesus, we may conclude that the man wasn’t all that confident in Jesus’ ability to heal him. Other blind people made a much bigger deal when getting near Jesus than this man did. This man likely had lots of doubts about Jesus.

Thirdly, this is one of the only times where Jesus performs a healing that doesn’t “work” entirely the first time around. He has to try again. The big takeaway I have from this two-times approach is that the man needed a little evidence in Jesus’ ability to assure him that Jesus really could heal him. We might call him the “Thomas” (John 20:24-29) of those who Jesus healed.

The now formerly blind man has faith and evidence to believe in Jesus, and it was the partial evidence that he allowed to strengthen his faith that gave him the ability to experience the complete healing miracle.

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Nothing Left to Chance: Mark 15:21-24

Focus Passage: Mark 15:21-24 (NCV)

21 A man named Simon from Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was coming from the fields to the city. The soldiers forced Simon to carry the cross for Jesus. 22 They led Jesus to the place called Golgotha, which means the Place of the Skull. 23 The soldiers tried to give Jesus wine mixed with myrrh to drink, but he refused. 24 The soldiers crucified Jesus and divided his clothes among themselves, throwing lots to decide what each soldier would get.

Read Mark 15:21-24 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

While Jesus was hanging on the cross, Matthew and Mark describe how Jesus refused a drink offered to Him by the soldiers. Part of me wonders if the wine and myrrh was to help deaden the pain of the cross, or if it was given to help prolong the life of the one being crucified. Perhaps it could have been given as a way of dulling the mind of the person being crucified, which may have resulted in them not having a filter on their last words while alive.

All of these ideas might be accurate, but it is interesting that both of these gospel writers include Jesus refusing to drink it. Mark describes in his gospel that “The soldiers tried to give Jesus wine mixed with myrrh to drink, but he refused.” (v. 23)

Matthew’s gospel says something similar, but he is a little more descriptive: “The soldiers gave Jesus wine mixed with gall to drink. He tasted the wine but refused to drink it.” (Matthew 27:34)

I am curious if Jesus refused this drink because He wanted His mind to be clear for the duration of His death. I wonder if Jesus knew that there was still more to do. Even in His last hours alive, Jesus may have known that there was one more person who would turn to Him – and it would be one of the least likely people possible: a thief being crucified next to Him.

I also wonder if Jesus refused to drink as a way of fulfilling His dedication to God – similar to the vow of a Nazarite in the Old Testament. While Jesus associated with people who drank, He had a reputation for socializing with those who did, and He turned water into wine early on in His ministry, we don’t see any direct record of Him drinking wine or vinegar-based drinks. The juice at the last supper that symbolized His blood is about the closest reference I can think of which would describe Jesus drinking. I wonder if Jesus had dedicated Himself to God in a similar way to how a Nazarite would have in the Old Testament – or if Jesus’ life was a fulfillment in some way of the Nazarite vows those in the Old Testament took.

The last thing I wonder is whether Jesus wanted us to know He was in as sane of a state of mind as one could be during an event like this. If Jesus had taken a drink, we might wonder if what He said to the thief or to anyone at any point during His time on the cross was really Him talking, or some type of alcoholic delusion. By refusing to drink what was offered, we can believe the words Jesus said while on the cross.

I may have to wait until heaven to get all these questions answered, but one thing I do realize in this decision not to drink is this: Even in death, Jesus was very intentional about the choices and decisions He made. Nothing was left to chance, and nothing happened that was not part of God’s great plan of salvation!

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Flashback Episode — Prophecy Fulfilled: John 19:28-37


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If you have ever wondered if Jesus tried to force His way into fulfilling prophecy, our passage for this episode sheds light on how unlikely this could be. In our last episode, we looked at how Matthew’s gospel records the time Jesus takes His last breath on the cross, and the amazing things that happened when Jesus gave up His Spirit.

To follow up what we looked at in Matthew’s gospel, John’s gospel records some other interesting details relating to what happened after Jesus had died. From John’s gospel, we discover some very difficult to reconcile prophecies that were fulfilled following Jesus’ death if you believe Jesus tried to force His way into fulfilling the Old Testament prophecies regarding the Messiah. In John’s gospel, we discover just how eerily accurate the Old Testament pointed towards Jesus as the Messiah.

Our passage for this episode is found in John’s gospel, chapter 19, and we will be reading it from the God’s Word translation. Starting in verse 28, John describes the moment Jesus dies by telling us:

28 After this, when Jesus knew that everything had now been finished, he said, “I’m thirsty.” He said this so that Scripture could finally be concluded.

29 A jar filled with vinegar was there. So the soldiers put a sponge soaked in the vinegar on a hyssop stick and held it to his mouth.

30 After Jesus had taken the vinegar, he said, “It is finished!”

Then he bowed his head and died.

31 Since it was Friday and the next day was an especially important day of rest—a holy day, the Jews didn’t want the bodies to stay on the crosses. So they asked Pilate to have the men’s legs broken and their bodies removed. 32 The soldiers broke the legs of the first man and then of the other man who had been crucified with Jesus.

33 When the soldiers came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they didn’t break his legs. 34 However, one of the soldiers stabbed Jesus’ side with his spear, and blood and water immediately came out. 35 The one who saw this is an eyewitness. What he says is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth so that you, too, will believe.

36 This happened so that the Scripture would come true: “None of his bones will be broken.” 37 Another Scripture passage says, “They will look at the person whom they have stabbed.”

In this passage, we discover three prophecies that were fulfilled in Jesus’ time on the cross. Two episodes ago, when we looked at how John’s gospel describes the early portion of Jesus’ time on the cross, we discovered another prophecy that was fulfilled related to how Jesus’ clothing would be divided and gambled for.

Throughout the entire event of the cross, at least four prophecies concerning the Messiah were fulfilled, and only one of these four Jesus had any direct involvement in. It was predicted that He would say He was thirsty while dying and this fulfilled one of the Old Testament predictions. Jesus did step into the role of Messiah willingly.

However, earlier in John’s gospel, we learned that the dividing and gambling of Jesus’ clothing was predicted, and this was not something Jesus had any control over. And then we conclude this passage and learn that Jesus was stabbed instead of having His legs broken. This was not something Jesus could have directed, and the soldiers likely could not have cared less about whether they were fulfilling a Jewish prophecy or not.

Using an unscientific ratio from just this event, if 25% of the prophecies about Jesus were under His control while 75% of the prophecies were not, the amazing reality that Jesus fulfilled so much of the Old Testament predictions regarding the Messiah are overwhelming. This was not something Jesus could force His way into. Even if we were to flip the ratio and say that 75% of the prophecies were within Jesus’ control, the remaining 25% is impressive enough of an amount that we should take note.

Earlier this year, we looked at how Jesus’ betrayal was predicted, the price that was paid for this betrayal was also predicted, and how the money was used after it was returned was also predicted. All this was also outside of Jesus’ direct control, and it was orchestrated by people who should have known better if they wanted to keep Jesus’ life and death from fulfilling prophecy. Their ignorance, or simply ignoring the knowledge they did have, incriminates them because they play into prophecy’s hand.

During Jesus’ crucifixion and death, we discover another group of people who fulfill a section of Old Testament prophecies and we discover that this group wouldn’t know or even care that they were doing so. The Roman soldiers follow a surprisingly specific set of conditions that were prophesied centuries earlier, and any thought that they intentionally orchestrated it is ridiculous when we look at Jewish vs. Roman hostility towards each another.

All this fulfilled prophecy speaks to one simple truth: Jesus is God’s Son and the Messiah God promised to the world! This truth is simple to acknowledge, a little more challenging to accept, and impossible to fully understand.

John writes that he personally witnessed the details that are described here, and that he shares them so that those who follow Jesus and who want to know God better can believe like he believes in Jesus.

Through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, we discover the picture of History. History is God’s story, and the high point of God’s story is displayed at Jesus’ death and resurrection. The entire scriptures point us to pay attention to Jesus.

When we pay attention to Jesus, we discover who He truly is, and we can then put our faith, hope, trust, and belief in Him. Through the record of the cross, we discover how much God loves us and what He was willing to give to restore our relationship with Him. Through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, we have the offer of a new, eternal life with God!

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

Always seek God first and intentionally focus on Jesus in your life. When looking at your life, your history, and your future, intentionally choose to see yourself in the big picture of history – specifically in the picture of God’s story. Our lives only make sense when we begin to see them through the eyes of Jesus’ sacrifice.

Also, always pray and study the Bible for yourself and intentionally study the scriptures with the understanding that Jesus is the focus. Only when we place Jesus as the focal point of scripture will we begin to discover God’s amazing love for His fallen creation. Decide today that you will discover this truth for yourself by praying and studying the Bible for yourself.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or abandon where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Year of the Cross – Episode 48: At the end of Jesus’ life, the gospel of John records how this death fulfills several prophecies in ways that could only be described as God-directed. Learn how Jesus amazingly fulfilled many Old Testament prophecies in ways that He could not directly control.

Join the discussion on the original episode's page: Click Here.

The Friend of Christ: John 3:23-36

Focus Passage: John 3:23-36 (NCV)

23 John was also baptizing in Aenon, near Salim, because there was plenty of water there. People were going there to be baptized. 24 (This was before John was put into prison.)

25 Some of John’s followers had an argument with a Jew about religious washing. 26 So they came to John and said, “Teacher, remember the man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan River, the one you spoke about so much? He is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.”

27 John answered, “A man can get only what God gives him. 28 You yourselves heard me say, ‘I am not the Christ, but I am the one sent to prepare the way for him.’ 29 The bride belongs only to the bridegroom. But the friend who helps the bridegroom stands by and listens to him. He is thrilled that he gets to hear the bridegroom’s voice. In the same way, I am really happy. 30 He must become greater, and I must become less important.

31 “The One who comes from above is greater than all. The one who is from the earth belongs to the earth and talks about things on the earth. But the One who comes from heaven is greater than all. 32 He tells what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts what he says. 33 Whoever accepts what he says has proven that God is true. 34 The One whom God sent speaks the words of God, because God gives him the Spirit fully. 35 The Father loves the Son and has given him power over everything. 36 Those who believe in the Son have eternal life, but those who do not obey the Son will never have life. God’s anger stays on them.”

Read John 3:23-36 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

If there was anyone who had a great and important mission, it was John the Baptizer. Not only was his mission prophesied about before his birth, he was also “the guy” to prepare the Jewish nation for the Messiah.

And it was a successful mission; perhaps even too successful since people seemed to keep asking him whether he was the messiah.

In this passage, and in my mind’s eye, every time John received this question, he responded in a similar way: “I am not the Christ, but I am the one sent to prepare the way for him.” (v. 28b)

In this passage, after Jesus had began His ministry, John repeatedly directs and points people to Him. He even says, “The bride belongs only to the bridegroom. But the friend who helps the bridegroom stands by and listens to him. He is thrilled that he gets to hear the bridegroom’s voice. In the same way, I am really happy. He must become greater, and I must become less important.” (v. 29-30)

This prompts me to wonder if Jesus’ followers today are called to a similar role. While as a group, we are called the “bride” of Christ, I wonder if we are also called to be friends of the bridegroom as well. In a typical marriage, the bride would ideally be friends with the bridegroom before the marriage, and I hope that the “bride” of Christ is friends with Him before the ceremony or that would be an awkward marriage.

If we are called to be friends of Christ like John was, then it is our responsibility to point people to Him like John did. While Jesus has not returned yet, each of us has an opportunity, like John, to point people to Jesus – and ultimately become part of the church that will be known throughout the universe as Jesus’ “bride”.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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