Jesus, According To Mark - Week 1: Stretch Out Your Hand

Today is the Second Sunday of Pentecost, which is the season in the historical rhythms of the Church when we ask ourselves: 

What kind of power does the Spirit of Christ bring to us?

We're journeying through the formation of the Church, from Jesus' Resurrection to the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit set some folks on fire to bear witness to what they'd seen and beyond what happened after that. 

Our sermon series for June is entitled:  

Jesus, According to Mark 

Mark’s Gospel, a bit of a primer: 

In the first century, Mark's Gospel was believed to have been written by one of Peter's disciples. Still, more modern scholarship has suggested that the Gospel was written anonymously and then attached to Peter's follower Mark to lend it authority. This was a common practice in the 1st and 2nd Centuries.  

In the 19th century, Mark was determined to be the oldest Gospel, believed to have been written before the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD. Both Matthew and Luke use Mark as a source.  

There has been some controversy surrounding Mark because the oldest source materials of the Gospel end with Jesus' appearance to the women at the tomb, and then they leave troubled and unsure of what to do.   The last words of the original ending are: "And they said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid." 

The added ending has Jesus later appearing to Mary Magdalene and then to everyone else. He offers up the Great Commission, and all is well that ends well.    

Mark's Gospel is much more matter-of-fact than the other three.  It reads in some places like a book of wisdom, in others like history, and also has elements of Greek tragedy.  It's a fascinating account; we'll dig into it for a few weeks. 

Today: Religious Rules - Why Do We Have Them? What Good Are They?

When they don’t make any sense at all… 

Fundamentalist Behavioral rules - no dancing, drinking, playing cards, listening to rock-n-roll, going to movies, watching beer commercials on TV, wearing skirts above your knees, women working outside the home, voting Democrat, being gay, reading Catcher in the Rye, Harry Potter or any book by Toni Morrison... 

When they serve to maintain the peace, unity, and purity of the Church... 

Constitutional stuff: rules about conduct, what it means to be a member, elder, deacon, and pastor. But when you keep adding to it... 

When they get in the way of people experiencing grace and forgiveness... 

Denial of communion, baptism, leadership, membership, etc.  Political issues, inerrancy of Scripture, literal reading, etc. 

The stories we’re reading today are about how Jesus broke some hard and fast rules regarding the Sabbath to do God’s work.  


23 One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. 24 The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”

The Pharisees and their rules—why they did what they did. 

“Doing work” became a sticking point in the religious debates.

25 He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? 26 In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.”

27 Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

Jesus' statement makes a statement—history and a claim. 

3 Another time Jesus went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. 2 Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. 3 Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.”

Pharisees were watching, waiting for him to do anything wrong. 

"Watched him closely" - looking out of the corner of their eye, spying.

4 Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent.

Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath?  A reflection of God’s will vs. rules. 

5 He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. 6 Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.

The religious rules of the Pharisees were add-ons, but they were so committed to them, they were willing to plot with their enemies to protect them.  

What Does This Story Teach Us?
  • We need to know what’s essential and what isn’t. 
  • We need unity (not uniformity), non-essentials, and charity in the essentials. 
  • If something stands in the way of grace, it isn’t from God. 



Popular posts from this blog

Wuv... True Wuv...

Rapha & Yada - "Be Still & Know": Reimagined

The Lord Needs It: Lessons From A Donkey