SOURCE FOR QUESTIONS
Mark 4:1 through 8:38
KEY VERSE FOR MEMORIZATION
“And he saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Peter answereth and saith unto him, Thou art the Christ.” (Mark 8:29)
Chapters 4-8 of the Book of Mark focus on proving to believers among the Greek-speaking residents of the Roman Empire that Jesus was indeed the Son of God. A selection of parables is given, although in keeping with Mark’s stress on action, he presented fewer of Jesus’ teachings but proportionately more accounts of His miracles than did the writers of the other Gospels.
Jesus’ credibility was established in these five chapters by accounts of His power over nature, disease and physical disabilities, the antagonism of the Pharisees and scribes, and evil spirits.
In this portion of text, Jesus continued to minister in the region of Galilee and, as recorded in chapter 7, He also reached out into the surrounding areas such as Tyre, Sidon, and Caesarea-Philippi. By ministering in Phoenicia, where Tyre and Sidon were located, Jesus established that His ministry was to all people — first to the Jews, but also to the Gentiles. In addition to performing miracles and teaching in parables, He expanded His outreach by commissioning and sending out the disciples.
The people of Jesus’ own town of Nazareth did not accept Him as God’s Son, nor did the religious leaders. Yet Peter, speaking for the disciples, made the profound declaration that Jesus was the Christ, the promised Messiah from God.
At the end of chapter 8, Jesus gave the disciples His first prediction of His death.
SUGGESTED RESPONSES TO QUESTIONS
- Mark 4:2 indicates that Jesus taught many things by parables. Given the importance of Christ’s teachings, why do you think He chose to use this method?
Parables both reveal and conceal. In Mark 4:9, Jesus said, “He that hath ears to hear let him hear.” This could be paraphrased, “He that will understand, let him understand.” The mysteries of the Gospel were not intended to be naturally discerned. They are comprehended via the enlightenment of God’s Spirit to those who demonstrate openness to His grace. Thus, those who were sensitive and attentive to spiritual things would perceive the importance of what Christ was teaching, and learn from it. Those who were cynical and of a doubtful mind would miss the spiritual lesson that was presented to them.
Today, the same is true of hearers of the Word. Two people can attend the same Gospel meeting and hear the same message. One may gain spiritual understanding, while the other — perhaps preoccupied, distracted by the cares of life, or consumed with personal interests — may miss it all.
Follow-up discussion could center on ways we can prepare our hearts to take in and benefit from times when the Word of God is presented to us today.
- What can we learn from Christ’s demeanor and actions in the midst of the sea storm? Mark 4:35-41
Class discussion may bring out some of the following thoughts:
• God has all power; no situation is beyond His power to remedy.
• God cares when we face “storms” in our lives.
• God does not want us to be fearful; faith overcomes fear.
You may wish to ask your students to share examples from their own knowledge or experiences when God stepped in to miraculously overrule a storm in someone’s life.
- In Mark chapter 5, we are given three accounts of healing. In what ways are these three instances different from each other?
Note to teachers: You might wish to compile a chart with your class based on their responses to this question and the following one.
The three cases were different in that one involved a man, one a child, and the other a woman.
Their circumstances in life were very different. The demoniac was a picture of the wretchedness and brutality of sin, a man possessed by satanic influences, self-destructive, and with impaired mental and emotional faculties. The child was young and innocent, the offspring of a distinguished member of the community who was an elder or religious leader of the synagogue. The woman was a social outcast in that she suffered from an incurable malady which resulted in her being designated by the Law as ceremonially unclean.
The demoniac approached Jesus from out of the tombs. Jairus openly stepped out from the throng and asked for Christ’s help on behalf of his dying daughter. The woman was also in the crowd, but was most likely unknown by many people, and wished to remain anonymous.
When your students have finished noting differences, move on to question four.
- How are the miracles referred to in the previous question similar?
In all three cases, there was an urgent need.
In each case, a request was made for help.
In all three instances, man’s remedies likely had been tried but the situations still needed the power of God in order to be resolved. The demoniac had been bound with chains but was still uncontrollable. Though Scripture does not specifically state that Jairus had sought the counsel of physicians, we can assume that he had done all he could possibly do. The woman with the issue of blood had spent all her money on doctors’ treatments, but her condition had continued to deteriorate.
Though their needs were very different, all received amazing and complete healings. The demoniac was restored to his right mind; Jairus’ daughter was raised from death; the woman with the issue of blood felt in her body that she was healed, and “straightway” (or immediately) the work was done.
In each case, the miracle of healing was a testimony to observers. The demoniac was commanded to stay and testify of Christ, and we read that “all men did marvel” (verse 20). The woman with the issue of blood was summoned by Christ to tell what had happened to her, and she told him “all the truth” (verse 33). When Jairus’ daughter was raised from her deathbed, all men were filled with “great astonishment” (verse 42).
Responses to questions three and four should lead your class to conclude that it does not matter to God who we are when we approach Him with our needs. It does not matter where we are. It does not matter what the need is. What does matter is that we bring it to Him, recognizing His power to come to our aid.
- Mark 6:33-44 records another amazing miracle of Jesus’. Far away from the city in a desert place, a crowd of five thousand men, plus women and children, had been listening to Jesus teach. With evening approaching, the people needed food. What solution did the disciples first propose? What lessons can we learn from studying Jesus’ response to the situation?
They proposed that Jesus send the people away to find their own food.
Class discussion of the second question could bring out a number of varying lessons to be learned from this account. You may wish to consider the following:
• Man’s extremities are God’s opportunities. The disciples saw the problem; Jesus saw the potential.
• While the disciples proposed sending the people away, Jesus’ message is just the opposite: He encourages all to come to Him.
• When we face a problem, the first step should not be to measure our resources, but to determine God’s will and trust Him to meet our needs. However meager our resources may be, in God’s hands they will be enough.
• Sometimes God requires us to participate in the answer to our prayers. The disciples did what they could by organizing the people into groups, offering what they did have, and distributing what God provided.
• Whatever we give to God, He can bless and multiply. We are not the producers; we are merely the distributors.
• When God gives, He gives generously. The “fragments that remained” were more than what had been offered in the first place.
- In Mark 7:1-13, a delegation of Pharisees and scribes confronted Jesus, finding fault with His disciples for eating with “unwashen hands.” Jesus rebuked the accusers by making several charges against them. Note at least three behaviors He condemned.
Verse 6 — They honored God with their lips but not their hearts.
Verses 7-8 — They taught the traditions of men instead of the commandments of God.
Verses 10-12 — They failed to support their parents as commanded by the Law, claiming what should have been given to their parents was “Corban” (something set aside for God).
This might be a good opportunity to discuss with your class the dangers of hypocrisy — pretending to be something you are not. Jesus referred to the Pharisees as “hypocrites” because their supposed worship was false and motivated by the wrong reasons. They wanted to appear righteous in the eyes of men, but had no inward righteousness. By contrast, Jesus taught the necessity and joy of inward purity. He made it clear that we are not pure because of outward acts. Rather, we become pure on the inside through submission to God and His cleansing power. Then our inward purity will naturally be reflected in clean, holy outward behavior.
- When Jesus warned His disciples of the “leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod” (Mark 8:15), the disciples thought He literally meant bread. What did He really mean, and why did He give this warning?
In the Bible, leaven (yeast) is consistently a symbol of sin, or of false doctrine. Christ was warning His disciples that the teachings of the Pharisees and attitudes of Herod and his followers were wrong. Just as only a small amount of leaven will permeate an entire batch of bread dough and cause it to rise, so the hypocritical teachings, lack of love, and worldliness in these religious and political leaders would contaminate an entire society. It would even infiltrate the disciples’ own ranks if they were not alert to the danger.
The warning given here is still valid in our day. Sin has phenomenal properties of expansion. As a follow-up question, ask your class what type of “leaven” Satan might try to introduce into our lives today. The point should be made that all believers must be on guard against being contaminated by the leaven of evil, in whatever form it takes.
- In Mark 8:34-38, Jesus revealed the cost of true discipleship. In verse 34, He said to His followers, “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” What are some ways we can fulfill that challenge in our lives?
Class discussion will likely cover a variety of suggestions. To begin with, you may wish to establish that there is only one way to truly be a disciple of Jesus, and that is to follow His admonition. Obedience is vital to a Christian life.
In reference to taking up the cross, it is important to note that Jesus was not speaking of self-inflicted trials, or purposely looking to make our lives more difficult. Nowhere does the Bible teach us that we need to invent our own crosses. This thinking can lead to a works-oriented salvation, and result in a burdensome and lifeless relationship with God.
Rather, taking up the cross means that we must yield to the standard of holiness that God wants to put into our hearts, and mortify the deeds of the body through the Spirit. We grow and become more like Christ as we continually deny ourselves things that can hinder us, in favor of walking in the Spirit of God. God provides grace for this, if we provide willingness.
As we walk with God, we will all have a cross to bear, and when we are willing to take up the challenge of the Gospel and be faithful at any cost, we will find the grace of God drawing us further and deeper into Christ’s fellowship. Rather than sadness and heaviness, we find a joy that surpasses any “sacrifice” we make. We will find that the cross (a calling, challenge in our lives, etc.) which may at one time have seemed too hard to bear, was in fact the doorway to God’s richest blessings.
Christ revealed Himself openly while on earth.
He also reveals Himself openly to us through His Word and the Holy Spirit. Let us determine to learn and uphold the truths He shows us about Himself!