Category Archives: Reading Mark

Reading Mark Together – Chapter 16 A New Beginning …

There is a story told of a man named Nikolai Ivanovich Bukharin.

But during his day he was as powerful a man as there was on earth. As Russian Communist leader he took part in the Bolshevik Revolution 1917, was editor of the Soviet newspaper Pravda (which by the way means truth), and was a full member of the Politburo. His works on economics and political science are still read today.

There is a story told about a journey he took from Moscow to Kiev in 1930 to address a huge assembly on the subject of atheism. Addressing the crowd he aimed his heavy artillery at Christianity hurling insults, argument, and proof against it. An hour later he was finished. He looked out at what seemed to be the smoldering ashes of faith. “Are there any questions?” Bukharin demanded. Deafening silence filled the auditorium but then one man approached the platform and mounted the lectern standing near the communist leader. He surveyed the crowd first to the left then to the right. Finally he shouted the ancient greeting known well in the Russian Orthodox Church: “CHRIST IS RISEN!”

En masse the crowd arose as one man and the response came crashing like the sound of thunder:


That first Easter morning the women and then the men visited the tomb and found the stone rolled away. That stone that had symbolised so powerfully the end of life and hope and future. All was lost as that stone was rolled across the tomb. It was the final moment of the reality of the death of the one they loved and who had brought love, life and hope to them.

That first Easter morning the stone was rolled away. The barrier between death and life was gone. The barrier between despair and hope was removed. The barrier between brokenness and wholeness was destroyed.

That first Easter God moved the stone, and he still moves stones today. Is there something that stands between you and life, between you and hope, between you and wholeness, between you and God? God still moves stones today. Ask and you shall receive, seek and you will find , knock and the door will be opened. So this Easter day let us ask God to remove all that stands between us and life, hope, wholeness and himself.

Alleluia Christ is RISEN!
He IS RISEN Indeed Alleluia!

We’ve got to the end of our journey through Mark. Well done. My hope and prayer is that each of us has done more than read words, but we’ve heard the author speak to us himself. I also pray that if you’ve never read the bible daily before you won’t stop. Reading the Bible each day is one of the best, and most important, foundations to living the life as an apprentice of Jesus.



Reading Mark Together – Chapter 6 How did it happen?

There are some amazing miracles in the Gospels, but I wonder how often we stop and ask the question: How did it happen?

That’s the question that comes to mind for me with the Feeding of the 5,000. Just exactly how did it happen? We have Jesus, twelve disciples and probably in excess of 15,000 people. Only the men counted so they were the only ones counted, with 5,000 men you may well have had 5,000 women and more than 5,000 children.

Imagine for a moment you are one of the disciples. Jesus takes one of the loaves, probably more like a roll than a loaf of bread as we would know today. As he takes the loaf he prays for his Father’s blessing on the loaf, tears it in half, gives you half and then says to you, OK now it’s your turn, go and feed the people! You look at Jesus, you look at the half-loaf you have just been given, you look at the people. Your half-loaf needs to feed about 1,500 people. What’s going on in your mind? What questions are you asking silently?

You have to do something so you start to break off a piece of the loaf and give it to someone. What happens then? You look back at your half loaf and see it is still a half loaf? Somehow, in someone’s hands the half loaves need to multiply so that every time they are broken they are restored to half loaves! Do you see what is happening and start to enjoy it? Are you bemused and confused? Do the people start to realise what’s happening and break their bits in half to give to others only to find their bit is still the same size?

Just how did the multiplication of the loaves happen?

If you experienced this miracle it would be something you’d never forget, it must have been amazing and astounding!

But there’s more!

Not only did 15,000 people eat, each getting at least a crumb – but they were all satisfied, that means they all felt that they had had their fill and couldn’t eat any more! Not just a crumb, but a full meal for 15,000 people from 5 leaves and two fish (by the way we never really hear what happened to the fish). If the ‘loaves’ were the small, flat, barley loaves that were common in that culture then one could easily eat several at a single meal. So each disciple started with half a loaf, and each person would have needed to eat say, 8-10 or more half loaves. Or perhaps the blessed bread was so good that only a small amount was needed to fill you up. Whatever way it is awesome!

But there’s more!

They started with five loaves and they ended with twelve baskets of leftovers! How big were the baskets? What did they do with the leftovers? How many of the disciples, or the people took home a sample of this ‘magic’ bread?

If God can feed 15,000 people from five small barley loaves and two small fish surely he can provide what we need today. Jesus had compassion on the hunger and needs of the people who came to receive from him. He is still a man of compassion on those he sees in need.

Jesus used the hands of his disciples to be the means through which he met the hunger of the people. He still uses the hands of those who will be his disciples to meet the hunger in our world today.



Reading Mark Together – Chapter 2 – Changing our Thinking

Reading Mark 1 we saw that Jesus said that a change of mind, a change of thinking was needed. To repent (Greek Metanioa) isn’t just about sin, it is about looking at life in a different way. In Mark 2 Jesus shows just how much our thinking needs to change.

Mark 2:1-12 is about sin and healing. A sick man is lowered in front of Jesus in a dramatic way and Jesus’ response isn’t to heal him, but to forgive him. The result was consternation amongst the religious leaders who were present: Who does he think he is to be forgiving sins, only God can do that!!! Jesus challenges their thinking, yes only God can do that. Which is easier, sins to be forgiven or sickness to be healed? Perhaps our thinking needs to change on this – I wonder if we see forgiveness as easier for God than healing?

Mark 2:13-17 is about Jesus challenging the common assumptions as to who is in and who is out, and who was most in need of his time and focus. The good religious people were definitely in and tax collectors, because they collaborated with the occupying Romans and grew rich at the expense of others, were definitely out. The term ‘sinners’ was commonly used of tax collectors, prostitutes, adulterers, robbers and the like, and they were most definitely out, they were excluded from the synagogue and all expression of Jewish faith. Jesus didn’t just associate with those who were outside the faith, he associated with those who were way beyond and excluded from the faith. Jesus seems more concerned with the outsiders than the insiders. Perhaps today Jesus would be more concerned with those who don’t attend church services than those who do! Perhaps we need to change our thinking to become a bit more like his?

This theme continues in Mark 2: 18-23 with his discussion of fasting, cloth and wine skins. Apparently if you take a new piece of cloth and attach it to an old garment and then wash them the new cloth will shrink and then damage the old garment rather then mend it. And if you pour new wine into old wine skins the danger is that the old will burst and you will loose both the new wine and the old wine skin. What is Jesus saying? Maybe something quite profound that challenges our thinking. In his time he was saying that the Kingdom of God which was now near wouldn’t fit in the structures and organisations of the old expression of the Jewish faith. And if you try to put the two together you would end up damaging both. I wonder today if we are trying to do exactly what Jesus warned us would cause problems. We have an old, established and institutionally ingrained expression of the Christian faith within the established church. We also have new expressions of the Christian faith that are reaching many who are alienated from the traditional church, yet many of those new expressions are expected to fit into the old structures and organisations and at best they don’t fit, at worst both the old and the new are damaged. Perhaps we need a new way of thinking?

Mark 2: 23-28 is about the Sabbath. I remember when I was young that our family had certain rules for how we observed Sunday. Each Sunday morning we all went to a church service, always in our ‘Sunday best.’ We always had a roast lunch together (a tradition I still enjoy!). We were allowed to play in our large back garden, but not allowed any ball games, so despite growing up in a garden which included a tennis court we were never allowed to play tennis on a Sunday. We had rules and regulations as to how we observed Sunday, just as the Jews had rules and regulations as to how they observed the Sabbath. One of those was they you weren’t allowed to do ANY work on the Sabbath, and picking ears of corn was considered as work. Jesus response is to challenge their way of thinking. Sabbath observance was to benefit people not restrict them with rules and regulations. One of the great things today is to see that people in our church communities are free to be themselves on Sunday. If you want to wear your Sunday best, then feel free, but of you want to come in jeans then feel free as well, we don’t judge others because of what they wear.

There is a church in the North that has taken this a step further. Once a month they don’t have a Sunday morning service at all. Instead they tell their church community to express their community life in any other way that they want to. Some meet together in their homes, invite ther friends and neighbours, chat, have lunch and hang out together. Others go for a walk together in the surrounding countryside. Others serve their local community by cleaning up the streets or doing the gardens of the elderly. Then in the evening they gather together to tell stories. I guess their worship and their learning is probably deeper, broader and more meaningful and more people are touched by God’s love. All because they understand that “The sabbath was made for man and not man for the sabbath.” Maybe one day we should follow their lead?



Reading Mark Together – Chapter 1

Over the past three days we’ve read Mark chapter one and there are a number of things that have struck me but I want today to highlight only one of them.

In Mark 1:4 we read the John baptised for the repentance of sins. Then in Mark 1:15 we read Jesus saying: “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” both of these use the same Greek word for ‘repent’ the word ‘metanoia.’

When I think of the word repent I automatically think of repentance for sins and of asking God to forgive me of my sins. The word ‘repent’ has become so associated with sins that it has become difficult to understand it in any other way. That is indeed the way John uses the word, but not the way Jesus uses it!

The Greek word ‘metanoia’ means to change ones mind or purpose and it’s implications for us are far wider than only our response to sin (although that is an important implication). Jesus is saying at the start of his ministry, the Kingdom of God is close, so close you can touch it, and in order to touch it you need a change of the way you think (a change of mind), and then you need believe, to give yourselves totally to this new way of thinking so that it shows in the way you behave.

Paul says something similar to the church in Rome: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

Over our lives our minds have become used to thinking in certain ways. ‘Ruts,’ or habits of the way we think have been created by the way we have been brought up and the experiences of our lives. Those thought patters now control how we think, respond and look at the world. We need to repent, to have a change of the way we think, and we need God to help us do that.

It may be in how we see ourselves, or in our relationships with others. It may be in how we relate to our money and possessions or perhaps how we view our work or retirement. It may be in how we see our role in the life of the church, or, dare I say it, what we expect from the vicar! But all of us need God’s help to change the bad habits in our thinking.

I heard a preacher say many years ago that the greatest problem for Christians is the one that exists between our two ears – the problem of our minds. I think he was right.



Read Mark's Gospel over the Summer

One of the small groups at St Paul’s asked what they could think about over the Summer as they didn’t want to stop meeting together. My suggestion, which they were keen to take up, was to read through one of the Gospels a little each day and when they met together to look at anything that had particularly struck them and any questions they had.

So over the next few weeks they, and I, will be reading through Mark’s Gospel starting tomorrow. How about reading it with us and I may from time to time post some thoughts. If you have any questions as you read it let me know and I will try to reply here so that everyone can benefit.
Here’s the reading plan:
24th July Mark 1.12-28 Jesus Calls Four Fishermen & A Man with an Evil Spirit
25th July Mark 1.29-45 Jesus Heals Many People, Preaches in Galilee & Heals a Man
26th July Mark 2.1-12 Jesus Heals a Paralyzed Man
27th July Mark 2.13-22 Jesus Calls Levi & The Question about Fasting
28th July Mark 2.23-28 The Question about the Sabbath
29th July Mark 3.1-12 The Man with a Paralyzed Hand & A Crowd by the Lake
30th July Mark 3.13-20 Jesus Chooses the Twelve Apostles
31st July Mark 3.21-35 Jesus and Beelzebul & Jesus’ Mother and Brothers
1st August Mark 4.1-9 The Parable of the Sower
2nd August Mark 4.10-20 The Purpose of the Parables & Jesus Explains the Parable of the Sower
3rd August Mark 4.21-32 A Lamp under a Bowl & The Parables of the Growing Seed and the Mustard Seed
4th August Mark 4.33-41 Jesus Calms a Storm
5th August Mark 5.1-20 Jesus Heals a Man with Evil Spirits
6th August Mark 5.21-34 Jairus’ Daughter and the Woman Who Touched Jesus’ Cloak
7th August Mark 5.35-43 Jairus’ Daughter Pt2
8th August Mark 6.1-13 Jesus Is Rejected at Nazareth & Sends Out the Twelve Disciples
9th August Mark 6.14-29 The Death of John the Baptist
10th August Mark 6.30-44 Jesus Feeds Five Thousand
11th August Mark 6.45-56 Jesus Walks on the Water & Heals the Sick in Gennesaret
12th August Mark 7.1-13 The Teaching of the Ancestors
13th August Mark 7.14-30 The Things That Make a Person Unclean & A Woman’s Faith
14th August Mark 7.31-37 Jesus Heals a Deaf-Mute
15th August Mark 8.1-13 Jesus Feeds Four Thousand People & The Pharisees Ask for a Miracle
16th August Mark 8.14-30 The Yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod & Jesus Heals a Blind Man at Bethsaida & Peter’s Declaration about Jesus
17th August Mark 8.31-38 Jesus Speaks about His Suffering and Death
18th August Mark 9.1-13 The Transfiguration
19th August Mark 9.14-29 Jesus Heals a Boy with an Evil Spirit
20th August Mark 9.30-41 Jesus Speaks Again about His Death & Who Is the Greatest? & Whoever Is Not against Us Is for Us
21st August Mark 9.42-50 Temptations to Sin
22nd August Mark 10.1-16 Jesus Teaches about Divorce & Jesus Blesses Little Children
23rd August Mark 10.17-31 The Rich Man
24th August Mark 10.32-45 Jesus Speaks a Third Time about His Death & The Request of James and John
25th August Mark 10.46-52 Jesus Heals Blind Bartimaeus
26th August Mark 11.1-11 The Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem
27th August Mark 11.12-19 Jesus Curses the Fig Tree & Goes to the Temple
28th August Mark 11.20-33 The Lesson from the Fig Tree & The Question about Jesus’ Authority
29th August Mark 12.1-12 The Parable of the Tenants in the Vineyard
30th August Mark 12.13-27 The Question about Paying Taxes & The Question about Rising from Death
31st August Mark 12.28-34 The Great Commandment
1st September Mark 12.35-44 The Question about the Messiah & Jesus Warns against the Teachers of the Law & The Widow’s Offering
2nd September Mark 13.1-13 Jesus Speaks of the Destruction of the Temple & Troubles and Persecutions
3rd September Mark 13.14-27 The Awful Horror & The Coming of the Son of Man
4th September Mark 13.28-37 The Lesson of the Fig Tree & No One Knows the Day or Hour
5th September Mark 14.1-11 The Plot against Jesus & Jesus Is Anointed at Bethany & Judas Agrees to Betray Jesus
6th September Mark 14.12-25 Jesus Eats the Passover Meal with His Disciples & The Lord’s Supper
7th September Mark 14.26-42 Jesus Predicts Peter’s Denial & Jesus Prays in Gethsemane
8th September Mark 14.43-52 The Arrest of Jesus
9th September Mark 14.53-65 Jesus before the Council
10th September Mark 14.66-72 Peter Denies Jesus
11th September Mark 15.1-15 Jesus before Pilate & Is Sentenced to Death
12th September Mark 15.16-32 The Soldiers Make Fun of Jesus & Jesus Is Crucified
13th September Mark 15.33-41 The Death of Jesus
14th September Mark 15.42-47 The Burial of Jesus
15th September Mark 16.1-11 The Resurrection
16th September Mark 16.12-20 Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene, Two Followers and to the Eleven & Jesus Is Taken Up to Heaven