Tag Archives: miracles

Questioning Jesus’ Sanity and Source (The Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit)

The Text: Mark 3:20-30 – The multitude came together again, so that they couldn’t so much as eat bread.  And when those close to Him heard, they went out to restrain Him, for they said, “He is crazy!”

And the scribes which acme down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebub, and by the prince of demons He cats out demons.”  And He called them, and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan?”

“And if a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.  And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.  And if Satan rises up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but has an end.”

“No man can enter into a strong man’s house and take his goods, unless he first binds the strong man; then he can rob his house.”

Truly I say to you, ‘All sins shall be forgiven to the sons of men, and blasphemies as many as they shall blaspheme; but he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation.”

[Jesus said this] because they said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

Introduction

In the last half of Mark chapter three, the writer deals with what people thought about Jesus’ mental state and His allegiance; and that’s followed by Jesus’ words regarding who His true family was.  While Mark records actual, 100% true events, they might not be recorded in chronological order.  Luke, who claimed to write his gospel “in consecutive order” (1:3, NASB), records some of these events in chapter 11, and then the last part seen in Mark 3 is recorded in Luke 8.  This doesn’t affect the inspiration of the Scriptures at all, for Mark never made the claim that he was writing chronologically.  Instead, there’s a logical progression to Mark’s unfolding of events.

The Text, part 1 – The View of His Associates (Mark 3:20-21).

In verses 20-21, the focus is on how certain people close to Jesus viewed His mental state because of His actions here.

And the multitude comes together again

This is the great crowd of people who just about crushed Jesus earlier in the chapter.  Jesus requested a small ship be prepared so that He wouldn’t be “thronged” or crushed like a grape.  But now, the same scenario arises again—except that this time there’s no ship, because Jesus is at a house (see verse 19).

So that they couldn’t so much as eat bread.

Whoever the “they” is (whether it’s Jesus and the apostles, or the crowd), the point is that there was so many of them that having the space and taking the time to eat was an impossibility (literally, they did not have the power even to eat).  The crowd wanted Jesus’ time and attention—it’s all they cared about.  It seems as though this is the same kind of thing that happened when Jesus ended up feeding the 4,000:

Jesus called His disciples and said, “I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with me now three days, and have nothing to eat: and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way (Matthew 16:32).

Have you ever been so focused on Jesus and wanting to be close to Him that you forget to eat—or don’t think eating is important enough to stop reading His word and going to the Father in prayer?  Jesus said “blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6); and He told His disciples, “My [food] is to do the will of Him that sent me” (John 4:34).  When our hunger for spiritual things becomes greater than our hunger for physical things, we have grown greatly in Jesus Christ.

Many of those who followed Jesus (including, certainly, many in this multitude) were not interested in His teachings, but in seeing a miracle or being the recipient of His healing power (Mark 3:10).

And when those near Him heard of it…

There’s debate as to who these people are.  The KJV and ASV say “friends,” the NKJV and NASB say “His people,” while the ESV (and many commentators) says “His family.”  Literally, the text says “the ones beside Him.”  Regardless of who it was (I tend to think it is His newly-appointed apostles whom He said would be “with Him”—Mark 3:14), these were people who cared about His well-being.

They went out to grab hold of Him

They wanted to rescue Him, to save Him from the crowds that put His life in danger before by mobbing Him.  Given the size of the crowd, it took some courage for these people to work their way to Jesus and try to take Him away from the mob.

For they said, “He is beside Himself!”

Literally, they said “He is crazy!”  It’s as though they were questioning Jesus’ sanity in going back out to the mob that all wanted to touch Him and crowd Him.  If indeed it is the apostles under consideration, imagine what they’re thinking.  They were selected that morning, and now, to them, it looks like Jesus is trying to commit suicide by letting the mobs come rush Him again.

But Jesus wasn’t crazy.  What His associates didn’t understand is that Jesus had the power to stop the mob in their tracks if He wanted.  He could have simply walked through the crowd like He did in Luke 4:28-30:

And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up, and thrust Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, so that they might cast Him down headlong.  But He, passing through the midst of them, went His way.

Mark doesn’t tell us what happened next.  He doesn’t say that the associates of Jesus pulled Him into the house, and doesn’t say they Jesus told them not to worry.  It’s simply left with their thought that Jesus was crazy.

The Text, part 2 – The View of the Scribes (Mark 3:22)

And that leads directly into verse 22, which tells us that the scribes held a somewhat similar view—but with a completely different motive.

The scribes which came down from Jerusalem…

These were some of the religious teachers who were supposed to be well-acquainted with the Law of Moses, having copied much of it by hand.  The fact that they were the scribes in Jerusalem meant that they were the most prestigious scribes in the nation.  Their words held a lot of weight with the people.

They came “down” from Jerusalem, because Jerusalem is situated on a mountain.  They weren’t using “down” to mean “south” like we do when looking at a map.  They walked, and so anywhere out of Jerusalem was “down” to them.

[They] said, “He has Beelzebub”

Beelzebub is a name the Jews used for Satan.  Literally, it means “Lord of the flies,” but it’s also been said that this originated with the idea that the flies buzz around piles of poop.  Thus, according to some who have studied the issue, the name Beelzebub is a derogatory name to describe Satan as “poop lord” or “the poo-poo god.” (and yes, that is a direct quote).

So when the scribes from Jerusalem made this accusation, it wasn’t just that they were questioning Jesus’ power and authority (which, if we are really lenient, we might say they did in ignorance), they were also degrading Jesus.  It wasn’t a scared, fearful, “He serves Satan,” but instead a sneering and mocking, “He has the poo-poo god.”

In the Old Testament (1 Kings 16), the Philistines worshiped “Baalzebub,” which is almost definitely the same name.  Ahaziah, one of the kings of Israel, was sick and injured, and instead of enquiring of God as to whether he would recover, he sent messengers to go enquire of Baalzebub.  Elijah stopped them and sent them back with a message: because the king would rather enquire of Baalzebub than of the God of Israel, he was going to die.  Over a hundred men were killed with fire from heaven in the course of the chapter, all going back to the actions of the king.

“By the prince of demons, He casts out demons.”

There’s not a single good motive behind what these scribes said of Jesus.  They said that He has Beelzebub, as though He’s possessed, not just by any demon, but by Satan himself, the ruler of demons!  He who was casting out demons, they claim, is the most possessed man there is!

Now don’t miss what they’re saying.  They are admitting, without a doubt, that Jesus was casting out demons.  Thus, they are admitting that Jesus possesses supernatural power—miracle-working power.  And they are so opposed to Jesus that they take the ridiculous position that He’s actually working for and with Satan!

Now, for the sake of the argument, we should recognize that in casting out demons, there were only two possibilities—either the power of God was behind it, or the power of Satan (the ruler over demons) was behind it.  The scribes tried to convince the people that Jesus was controlled by Satan, or working with him, in an effort to trick people into following Satan, by casting out the demons.  In effect, their accusation was that Satan was trying to pretend to be an angel of light to draw away followers after himself.

His associates thought He was crazy, but His enemies claimed He was Satan-possessed!

The Text, part 3 – A House Divided (Mark 3:23-27).

Jesus’ response is to show the ludicrousness of their accusation.  Mark doesn’t give us everything Jesus used in response, but he gives us enough to make the point pretty clear.

He called them, and said to them in parables, “How is Satan able to cast out Satan?”

Mark wants to make sure that his readers don’t miss the point of these parabolic statements from Jesus.  They each are given as ways of asking the same question, “How is Satan able to cast out Satan?”  The word translated as “can” in the KJV is the word dunamai, the noun form of which is very frequently used to describe miracle-working power.  When it appears here, the question is “How does Satan have the ability [or power] to cast himself out?”

Jesus, who knew what the scribes were thinking and saying, called them and presented a series of arguments to them.

“If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.”

Imagine a king who tries to undermine the very laws that he uses to govern people.  Or a ruler who bombs his own army.  If Satan is casting out Satan, it’s the same as though a king was banishing himself from his own kingdom, or perhaps banishing all his subjects (since Satan is the ruler of the demons).  Once there are no more subjects, there’s no kingdom.

Jesus’ point is that no one with any sense at all would actively seek to destroy his own kingdom, and Satan isn’t stupid—he isn’t going to actively try to destroy his own power, and therefore himself.

“If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.”

Jesus goes from the large (the kingdom) to the small (the family) to show that this principle applies all the way around.  A family which does nothing but fight isn’t really a family at all any more, except perhaps in name only, because the people in that family have destroyed it.

“If Satan rises up against himself, and is divided, he cannot stand, but has an end.”

Jesus makes it clear that the demons that have been cast out are loyal to Satan; by casting out the demons, it is an attack on Satan himself.  Thus, if this is being done by Satan’s power, then Satan is attacking himself.  And if Satan is attacking himself, neither he nor his kingdom can stand.  If Satan is attacking himself, he has an end—he is committing suicide.

However, Satan isn’t stupid.  Satan isn’t attacking himself.  Satan isn’t committing suicide.

But something is going on… Satan is being attacked… His soldiers are being defeated…  His kingdom is shaking.

No one can enter into a strong man’s house and steal his goods, unless he first binds the strong man; then he can rob his house.

The scribes’ accusation was that Jesus was possessed by Satan.  Jesus’ response is to say, in essence, Are you kidding me?  Satan’s kingdom is falling, and he’s not doing it himself.  I’m the one who is doing it, for Satan—as strong as he is—is no match for me.  I’m taking his kingdom.

It is a statement of Jesus’ amazing power.  He, as God in the flesh, has come and beaten Satan at his own game.  Satan went after Him hard and heavy, tempting Him during those forty days (Mark 1:13), but Jesus came out victorious, and began to announce that the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand.  Satan continues to fight back, but his kingdom is losing power every day that Jesus works.  Satan is the “strong man,” but Jesus is even stronger!

The Text, part 4 – The Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (Mark 3:28-30).

Understanding the context is key to understanding what the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit actually is.  Jesus didn’t just spit out these words are a random moment; He thoughtfully said them in response to an actual event.  And it’s rather important that we notice the progression of what’s happened here in His interaction with the scribes.

  1. They make the accusation that He’s doing miracles by the power of Satan.
  2. He shows the ridiculous nature of their accusation.
  3. He declares His superiority in power over Satan (which is actually a claim to be Deity).

And now, Jesus warns them that eternal damnation (which He has in His power to administer) awaits those who make such accusations.

“Truly I say to you, All sins shall be forgiven to the sons of men”

Murder, robbery, hatred, etc., all of the things we think of as sin will be forgiven by God if we repent.  Of course, this is not saying that God will forgive every sin period.  There is no grace for those who sin willfully (Hebrews 10:26), or for those who don’t know God or who reject the gospel (2 Thessalonians 1:8).  But Jesus is saying that forgiveness is available for all sins…except for one.

“Even blasphemies, as many as they shall blaspheme”

Blasphemies are speaking evil of someone, speaking against them.  Even blasphemies will be forgiven by God.  Saul of Tarsus blasphemed (1 Timothy 1:13), but was forgiven.  Blasphemy itself does not guarantee eternal damnation.  But one kind does…

“But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation.”

Jesus brought this up for a reason, which Mark gives in verse 30.  The scribes had seen first-hand the power of Jesus to cast out demons (see Luke 11:14-15), but were so hard-hearted that they’d rather give the glory for this wonderful miracle to Satan than to Jesus, who did it by the power of the Holy Spirit.  They, the teachers of the law, the supposed experts, were calling good “evil.”

Woe to them who call evil “good,” and good “evil”; that put darkness for light and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe to them who are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! … Therefore as the fire devours the stubble, and the flame consumes the chaff, so their root shall be as rottenness, and their blossom shall go up as dust: because they have cast away the law of the LORD of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.  Therefore is the anger of the LORD kindled against His people…(Isaiah 5:20-21, 24-25).

Miracles, which came from the Holy Spirit, were given as absolute confirmation from God Himself that the things spoken were divinely approved, and that the messenger was from God (Mark 16:20, Mark 2:10).  If someone saw the evidence given by God, and still rejected it, and even worse, claimed that it was Satan that was doing it?  That is a full-on attack on God Himself, His nature, His goodness, His power, and His deity.  The person who is that hard-hearted has destroyed his chance at forgiveness.

Some Greek manuscripts read “guilty of eternal sin,” which gets the same basic idea across.  It is a sin that never dies, that never goes away.

People often wonder (and worry) about possibly committing this same sin today.  First, you need to remember what it is: accepting the miracles of the Holy Spirit, but rejecting the message, the messenger, and attributing those miracles to Satan.  So, the only way you could commit this unpardonable, eternal sin today is if you admitted the miracles of Jesus and the apostles took place, but agreed with the scribes that it was done through the power of Jesus.  Or perhaps if you said that the Bible itself (given by inspiration of the Holy Spirit) was a product of Satan, and not of God.

The point to remember is that if you’re trying to be right with God, there is ZERO chance that you could commit this sin.  It isn’t a sin that is committed on accident.  The scribes intentionally spoke against the miracles of Jesus.  It wasn’t that they questioned them, or just weren’t certain; they did it on purpose.  That is what made it unforgiveable.  They knew it was a miracle, and they intentionally gave credit to Satan for it instead of God (via the Holy Spirit).

[He said this] because they said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

Jesus has completely turned the tables on them.  They came with what they probably thought was an ingenious argument, and they left exposed and condemned.  Their condemnation came because they had said Jesus Himself had an unclean spirit—specifically Satan—guiding His movements.  How hard-headed and close-minded do you have to be to claim in one breath to believe in God and His word, and in the next denying God’s power, and by implication praising Satan???

Is it any wonder that they left condemned?

Application

You Might Not Know the Whole Story…

The associates of Jesus (regardless of who they were) wanted to help Him, to essentially save Him from Himself.  But they didn’t understand the whole story.  They didn’t fully grasp what was going on, who Jesus was, and what power He had.  There are times in our lives where we make assumptions about other people, and sometimes those assumptions turn out to be completely wrong.  The ones who went to grab Jesus were acting out of concern for His well-being, and that is absolutely commendable.  It’s an example we should follow.  But at the same time, they were acting on an assumption.

When you start to question the motives of others, stop and ask yourself if you’re assuming they have bad motives, or if you know for certain that such is the case.  It might be that you have misunderstood what is happening.  It might be that their motives are pure and they simply made a mistake.  It might be that they just plain don’t have the same level of understanding that you do in some matters.  In all things, instead of making assumptions, we should go to the person and help them, make sure we know the truth about any given situation so that we can be able to act based on facts and not assumptions.

The Other Unforgiveable Sin

Jesus said that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit was not forgivable; but there is another sin that is unforgiveable.  That sin is the one that you know you’ve done, but don’t repent of.  Hebrews 10:26 says “if we sin willfully, after having received a knowledge of the truth, there remains no more sacrifice for sins…”  To sin willfully is to know you’re sinning, to do it on purpose.  1 John 1:9 says “if we confess our sins” (and the idea is not just saying “yep, I did this,” but confessing it to God with a repentant heart), “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  That word “if” means that when you don’t repentantly confess your sins to God, you won’t be forgiven.

Brethren, when you know you’ve sinned, repent and ask God for forgiveness for it, and He will forgive you.

Invitation

Those verses were written to Christians who had already taken hold of the blood of Jesus Christ through humble obedience to His word.  The very first sermon delivered after the resurrection of Jesus is found in Acts 2.  In that sermon, Peter’s goal was to help people be saved.  After getting their attention, Peter said, “hear these words,” and proceeded to tell them about the death and resurrection of Jesus.  He appealed to both Scripture and miracles to prove it to them, so that they would believe it.  When the people realized he was telling them the truth, they were cut to the heart and asked, “What shall we do?”  Peter’s response to these people who were not yet Christians, and who wanted to be forgiven, was this: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, for the remission of sins.”

If you have not obeyed the gospel commands, please delay no longer.  Follow those simple God-given directives and enjoy a new life with your old sins all erased!

-Bradley S. Cobb

An Angry Jesus Doing Good

The Text: Mark 3:1-12 – 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 on the Sabbath Day; so that they might accuse Him.  And He says to the man which had the withered hand, “Stand forth.”  And He says to them, “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath, or to do evil?  To save a life, or to kill?”  But they held their peace.

And having looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for their hardness of hearts, He says to the man, “Stretch forth your hand.”  And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other.

And the Pharisees went forth, and immediately took counsel with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him.  But Jesus withdrew Himself with His disciples to the sea: and a great multitude from Galilee followed Him, and from Judea, and from Jerusalem, and from Idumaea, and from beyond Jordan, and a great multitude of those around Tyre and Sidon, when they had heard what great things He did, came to Him.

And He spoke to His disciples, so that a small ship should wait on Him because of the multitude, lest they should throng Him.  Because He had healed many; insomuch that they pressed on Him in order to touch Him, as many as had plagues.  And unclean spirits, when they saw Him, fell down before Him, and cried, saying “You are the Son of God.”  And He strictly charged them that they should not make Him known.

Introduction

The King who has been announcing His coming Kingdom has already conquered some of the knights of the Kingdom of Darkness.  But lately, as He’s trying to prepare people for His impending rule, a group of religious leaders—spokesmen for the way things are—have been growing bolder and bolder in opposing Him.  The King has been relatively patient with them, all things considered, but that ends today.

The Text, part 1 – Getting Jesus Angry (Mark 3:1-5).

When we consider Jesus and His personality, most often we think of His caring, kindness, and compassion.  We think of His helping the helpless, lifting the fallen, caring for the heartbroken.  We don’t usually think of Him staring down a group of people with anger in His eyes—but that is what Mark paints for us in this passage.

He entered again into the synagogue

We mentioned this several lessons ago, but Jesus made it a point to meet in the synagogue each Sabbath Day.  This serves as an example for us: make the time to meet together each week for worship to God.

There was a man there who had a withered hand.

Luke tells us that it was the man’s right hand that was withered (Luke 6:6).  The Greek indicates that he was not born this way, but that it was withered as the result of something else, either a disease or an injury (Vincent’s Word Studies, and Robertson’s Word Pictures).  The word “withered” means that his hand had shriveled up due to a lack of moisture and nutrients, and became completely unusable.

Think about the horrible situation this man must have been in.  In a time when most people did manual labor to support their family, this man couldn’t.  He couldn’t hold the plow, couldn’t hoe the ground, couldn’t hammer nails (you need a hand to hold the nail in place)—he couldn’t even sweep the floor.  Perhaps he had sons who could help with the work to support the family, but we don’t know that for certain.  It’s just as likely that this man was in dire straits, feeling like a failure because he wasn’t able to do what a man is expected to do—provide for his own.

They [the Pharisees] watched Him, whether He would heal on the Sabbath Day, so that they might accuse Him.

The Pharisees, the ones who have been stirring up trouble, trying to call Jesus into question on seemingly everything He does, sat in the synagogue—not to hear the word of God proclaimed, but because they were trying to find something that they could use against the preacher.  What a horrible attitude to have!

It seems that as irritated with Jesus as the Pharisees were, they knew that they had been beaten in trying to find things to use against Him earlier.  Otherwise, they would have already been satisfied with the evidence they had to accuse Him.  But this, they believed, was the prime opportunity—healing a man must be considered working; therefore it cannot be done on the Sabbath!

Now a quick question: why are you here?  What is it that you are focused on?  Is it on trying to criticize people: the prayer leaders, the song leader, or the preacher?  Or is your focus on worshiping God and trying to be right with Him?  Because the man leading the prayer is going to occasionally mis-speak or stumble over words.  The song leader will sometimes get the song too high or too low or get mixed up on the verses or words.  The preacher, too, will sometimes say the wrong book, chapter, or verse, or will get his words mixed up.  If being critical is what you’re here for, you will find something, because we aren’t perfect.  But by the same token, if you are here to worship God, and have your focus on Him, His will, and on how you can be a better Christian, then you will be blessed by the songs, prayers, and sermons on the Lord’s Day.

He says to the man which had the withered hand, “Stand forth.”

Jesus didn’t do this miracle in a corner, hidden away from everyone else.  He wanted the crowd to see what was about to happen.  Some people might say that this is a contradiction of Jesus’ command to do your alms in secret (Matthew 6:1-4).  But the purpose of Jesus doing this miracle was to cause people to believe in Him and listen to His message.  Whereas, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus instructed His disciples to help people for the sake of helping them, not because it made you look more spiritual, drawing praise from men.

So, He commands the man to stand up.

And He says to them

He’s now turned His attention, for a moment, from the man to the Pharisees, whom He knows are trying to be critical of Him and find something to accuse Him of.

“Is it lawful on the Sabbath Day to do good, or to do evil?”

Jesus isn’t asking them if it’s permissible to do anything on the Sabbath, but presenting to them two options.  All the Pharisees would agree that not everything is forbidden on the Sabbath Day, so that means some things are allowed.  The question to them is: What does the Law allow on the Sabbath—good deeds or evil deeds?  There was nothing they could do to get around this question.  Obviously, the Law never permitted evil to be done, so that wasn’t the answer.

At the same time, as Jesus asks this question, He’s laying some groundwork for what He’s about to do.  He could not perform a miracle, healing this man of his withered hand, except through the power of God.  And if Jesus heals the man, it shows that God approves of doing good on the Sabbath—in other words, it would prove Jesus right and undermine the foundation of the Pharisees’ thinking.

“Is it lawful on the Sabbath Day…to save a life or to kill?”

It was obvious to all that were there, especially when Jesus told the man to stand up, that He planned on healing this poor man.  Jesus began His question to the Pharisees with just a general “is it lawful to do good or to do evil?”  But now He takes His question to the extreme, “Is it lawful to save a life or to kill?”  Most rational people (even among the Pharisees) would admit that it was permissible to save a life (regardless of how much work it would take) on the Sabbath.  The man with the withered hand was a case that certainly fell between simply “doing good” and “saving a life.”  Thus, Jesus proved His point.

But it is also interesting that Jesus proposed to do good on the Sabbath, while the Pharisees were thinking evil, trying to take mental notes so that they could make accusations against Him later.  And after this incident, as we will see momentarily, they started making plans to kill Jesus that very Sabbath.

But they held their peace.

The answer to the question was so clear, so obvious, but they refused to answer because it would incriminate them, their motives, and their teachings.  Just like when Jesus asked them later about the baptism of John, they refused to give an answer because they would look bad either way.

Matthew records Jesus asking another question: “What man will there be among you, that will have one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath Day, will not lay hold of it and lift it out?  How much then is a man better than sheep?  Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath Days” (Matthew 12:11-12).  The Pharisees would absolutely save their sheep on the Sabbath, but they wanted to hold Jesus to a different standard than they were willing to hold themselves.

How often do we see this happen in families, in our jobs, and even in the church?  Look, let’s make this abundantly clear—we will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ and held to the STANDARD, and that is the Word of God.  If we are faithful to God’s word, then we will be saved, regardless of whether we match up with someone else’s standard or not.  It’s like the preacher who was told by a member, “I don’t have to visit, but you’ll be fired if you don’t.”  And Jesus has some words for people who are like that: “Do not judge [condemn], so that you will not be judged [condemned], for with what judgment you judge, you shall be judged” (Matthew 7:1-2).  When you start making demands of others, yet don’t follow them yourself, you are a hypocrite; and at the judgment, you will be judged by God in the same way that you have judged others.

And having looked around at them…

The word here is a form of periblepo, which means not just looking at them, but looking around at them, making sure he looked at every one of them.  And this word doesn’t just express the fact that He looked at them all, but that He looked at each one of them for Himself.  He looked at their faces, confirming what He already knew.  Some probably stubbornly looked at him without a word, while others probably glanced away or looked down so they didn’t have to meet His eyes.

…with anger

Picture the face of Jesus with the scowl, the angry fire in His eyes as He looks at each of these men who had their own disciples, but weren’t willing to answer a relatively simple and obvious question.  Mark tells us exactly what it was that made Jesus angry.

Being grieved because of their hardness of heart

People who were sincere and honestly wrong, Jesus and the apostles had patience with; but the Pharisees weren’t sincere, nor were they honestly wrong (as in simply mistaken).  They were intentionally stubborn, recognizing the truth of what Jesus said, but unwilling to admit it or live by it.  They were more interested in their position as leaders than they were in doing what was right.  They liked the power and weren’t about to give any of it up, even though they were about as ungodly as one can be.

This attitude of stubbornness angered our Lord and Savior then, and brethren, it still angers Him today.  There are members who have the attitude of criticism toward others.  There are members who stubbornly reject commands of Jesus because they simply don’t feel like following them (mostly attitude ones).  And if anyone dares point that out to them, watch out!  My friends, that is the hardness of heart that made Jesus angry—and you do not want the Judge of the world to be angry with you!

He says to the man, “Stretch forth your hand.”  And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored whole as the other.

After making His point to the Pharisees (and the other people in the room certainly caught it as well), Jesus went ahead and healed the man.  If, as many believe, this man’s hand was withered to the point that his arm was also affected, then Jesus asked him to do something that he hadn’t been able to do in some time, but the man, in faith, tried, and discovered that his hand had been completely healed!  What joy was on that man’s face and in his heart!  What amazement there was among the honest people in that synagogue!  But not everyone was happy…

The Text, part 2 – Getting Angry at Jesus (Mark 3:6)

Jesus got angry with the Pharisees because they were hard-hearted.  The Pharisees, in return, got angry with Jesus.  Why?  Because they couldn’t control His every move.  Because He dared to point out their traditions weren’t Scripture.  Because he wouldn’t cater to their self-centered whims.  And because people were happy with Jesus’ life and work—the Pharisees were losing some of their power over people.

And the Pharisees went forth and immediately took counsel with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him.

Just how angry were the Pharisees?  They were so angry that they immediately contemplated murder.  They were so angry that Luke describes them as “filled with madness” (Luke 6:11), or perhaps more literally, “filled with insanity.”  They were so angry that they went to their political enemies, seeking to work together to destroy Jesus.  The Herodians were a sect of the Jews who were very enthusiastic supporters of the Roman government, specifically of the Herods who had ruled over them (for Rome) for the previous several decades.

But when you dislike someone and you’re trying to get rid of him, it doesn’t really matter to you how you do it, so long as you can actually get it done.

The Text, part 3 – Continuing to Work (Mark 3:7-12)

Even though Jesus knew what was on the minds of the Pharisees, He didn’t let that stop Him from doing the good that He came to do.  Even when we might be persecuted by Satan and his minions (yes, sometimes that even includes members of the church), we can’t let that stop us from doing the work of God—that’s what Satan wants!

But Jesus withdrew Himself with His disciples to the sea: and a great multitude from Galilee followed Him

The Pharisees went out, discussing how to get rid of Jesus.  Meanwhile, Jesus went out, continuing to work for God.  His fame had spread throughout all of Galilee (most of the events in Mark up to this point took place there), and so it’s no surprise that huge numbers came out to see Him and hear Him and ask for healing from Him.

And from Judea

This is the southern portion of the Promised Land, where Jesus had spent some time baptizing people (through His disciples) back in John 3-4.

And from Jerusalem

The people following Jesus were not just the smaller towns and villages of Judea, but some were from the capital city of Jerusalem itself!

And from Idumaea

Idumaea is the land of Edom, descendants of Esau.  About 150-200 years prior to this event, a Jew named John Hyrcanus took over and reigned as king over the Jews.  One of the things he did was force the Edomites to either submit to circumcision and become Jews or die.  So, while these weren’t pure-blooded Jews, they were related, and had been proselytized to Judaism.

And from beyond Jordan

The tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh took up residence on the eastern side of the Jordan River when they came to the Promised Land.  Even hundreds of years later, by the time Jesus arrived on the scene, there were still Israelites that lived there.

And those around Tyre and Sidon

These cities were to the north-west of the Sea of Galilee.  Tyre was destroyed in part by Nebuchadnezzar, and then the job was finished by Alexander the Great.  But there were still Jews that lived in that general area.

A great multitude

There was a great multitude from Galilee, and a great multitude from these other areas, which covers practically the entire area that God had promised to the Israelites in the Old Testament.  This was an enormous group of people coming to Jesus.

When they heard what great things He did, came to Him

They heard about the great works Jesus was doing, and they wanted to come to Him and see for themselves, and to receive some of the same healings.  To an extent, we can look to this as an evangelistic outreach—when we do things for other people, word spreads.

And He spoke to His disciples, so that a small ship should wait on Him, because of the multitude, lest they should thong Him.

There were so many people coming and crowding around Jesus that He needed a way of escape to keep from being thronged—Thayer says the word means pressed like a grape.  It wasn’t Jesus’ time to die, and being crushed to death by His followers didn’t exactly fit with the prophecies of the Old Testament.

Sometimes, we need to get away for a little while.  Sometimes we’ve got so much going on, so many people wanting part of our time, that we need to have a way to get away from it all, our own “small ship,” so to speak.  Because it we don’t, we could find ourselves crushed, and lose our ability to bear fruit for the Lord.

Because He had healed many; insomuch that they pressed on Him to touch Him, as many as had plagues.

Literally, they were rushing on Him, crowding Him, shoving at each other in an effort to get to Him and touch Him, in the hopes that by doing so, their sicknesses would be removed.  They had seen/heard others that were healed, and they wanted it too!

And unclean spirits, when they saw Him, fell down before Him

Matthew 12:15 says that Jesus healed everyone that came to Him, so Mark is probably talking about the demon-possessed people falling down before Jesus because of the demons inside them recognizing Him.  As James tells us, “the demons also believe, and tremble” (James 2:19).

And they cried, saying, “You are the Son of God.”

These demons must have known that they were about to be cast out, and so they tried to do what they could to hamper Jesus’ work.  If the crowd was close to crushing Jesus to begin with, how much more so do you think it would get if they caught wind that Jesus was not just a man sent by God, but was in fact very the Son of God?

And Jesus strictly charged them that they should not make Him known.

The way it is written in Mark makes it seem like He’s telling the demons not to make Jesus known, but He’s actually talking to the people, the great multitudes that came to Him, whom He healed.  We know this because of Matthew’s account—Jesus healed them all, which would include the demon-possessed people.  Therefore, those demons would have been cast into the abyss (Luke 8:31), and not had the opportunity to make Him known.  Also, in Matthew’s account, the demons aren’t mentioned, and Jesus “charged them [the people who were healed] that they should not make Him known.” (Matthew 12:15-16).

Jesus didn’t want the talk of the miracles to spread even further, because there was already a dangerously-sized crowd mobbing Him.  It was already to the point where everyone was primarily interested in the miracles—not in the message that Jesus had to speak.  Jesus didn’t want that trend to continue and perhaps grow even worse.

It would be, I would think, incredibly difficult to keep it to yourself if you’d been healed, though.  But like some other commands, Jesus still expects us to follow them, even if they are difficult.  That’s why He said the words “Be thou faithful unto death—[even if it means dying]—and I will give you a crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).

Application

Helping Others Get Back to Work

Jesus had compassion on a man whose physical ailment kept him from being able to work.  It was in His power to fix the problem, to help the man, and so He did.  If we have it within our power to help someone to be able to work, to support themselves and their family, then we ought to also have compassion on them enough to offer that help.  It could be something as simple as giving someone a ride to fill out an application, or making a phone call to a friend who might be looking to hire someone.  But take compassion on those who can’t work.

It’s Okay to be Angry

Jesus was angry, yet He didn’t sin.  His anger stemmed from the sinful attitude of the Pharisees—the religious leaders of the day.  They were continually looking for things to throw at Him—even though those things weren’t sinful.  It made Him angry when their hard-heartedness kept them from admitting the truth.  It made Him angry when they were looking for reasons to criticize Him instead of seeing that God approved of His actions and teachings through the miracles.

As a side note, Jesus also shows that there’s never a wrong time to do good for others.

Invitation

Jesus did a good deed in healing that man, but the greatest thing He ever did was dying on the cross, taking with Him the sins of all of God’s faithful followers.  That sacrifice is meant for me and for you, but only if we come to Jesus in faithful obedience, believing in Him, repenting of our sins, and being baptized.  Then we must continue to grow, staying true to Him, even during the difficult times.  When we mess up as one of God’s children, we come to Him in prayer, seeking forgiveness.  Won’t you come take hold of that precious gift of salvation today?

-Bradley Cobb

Un-Paralyzing the Paralytic

The Text: Mark 2:1-12 – Again, He entered Capernaum after some days; and it was reported that He was in the house.  And immediately, many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no not even at the door: and He preached the Word to them. 

And they came to Him, carrying a paralytic, who was lifted up by four men.  And when they could not come near to Him because of the multitude, they uncovered the roof where He was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was laying.

When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Child, your sins are forgiven you.”

But there were certain of the scribes sitting there, reasoning in their hearts, ‘Why does this man thus speak blasphemies?  Who can forgive sins but God only?’

And immediately, when Jesus perceived in His spirit that they reasoned this way within themselves, He said to them, “Why do you reason these things in your hearts?  Which is easier to say to the paralyzed man: ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say ‘Arise, take up your bed and walk’?  But so that you may know that the Son of man has power on earth to forgive sins,” (He says to the paralyzed man) “I say to you, ‘Arise, and take up your bed, and go your way into your house.’”

And immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all; insomuch that they were all amazed, and glorified God, saying “We never saw such.”

Introduction

Jesus has already been revealed in Mark’s Gospel Account to be a King—a different kind of King.  He’s a King with great power, with great authority, and with compassion.  But He’s also a King whose Kingdom had not yet been established.  Remember that He was preaching to the people that “The Kingdom of God [or, God’s Empire] was at hand” (Mark 1:15).  His mission—and the mission of His herald, John the immerser—was to prepare people for the coming of His Kingdom.  But this Kingdom, Mark’s readers could tell, was not like other Kingdoms.

The Text, part 1 – The Crowd Rushes In (Mark 2:1-2)

It’s been some days since Jesus healed the leper who “blazed abroad” the news about Jesus’ amazing healing powers.  And people from all over Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem (Luke 5:17) have come to find Him, to hear Him, and to witness His power for themselves.

Again, He enters into Capernaum after days.

Jesus’ first several miracles in Mark’s Gospel Account were done in Capernaum, beginning with the casting out of the demon in the synagogue, then the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law, and then healing “many that were sick of various diseases” and casting out “many demons” (Mark 1:21-34).  After making a preaching and healing tour in Galilee (1:39-45), Jesus is now coming back to Capernaum, to Simon and Andrew’s house, which served as a kind of headquarters for Him while He was in Galilee.

We’re not told how long this preaching tour lasted.  Mark literally says “He entered Capernaum after days.”  Most translations insert a qualifier, like “some days” (KJV), “a few days” (MLV, NIV), “many days” (Living Oracles), or “several days” (NASB), but Mark just says “after days.”

And it was reported that He was in the house

With Jesus preaching and healing all over Galilee, and the news that He had cleansed a man of leprosy, Jesus’ fame was growing even more (see 1:28).  So it is no surprise that when someone found out that Jesus was in Simon and Andrew’s house (the only house mentioned in the book thus far), word spread—and quickly.

Immediately, many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no not even at the door.

Can you imagine the excitement that there must have been in order to pack the house that tight?  We don’t know how big Simon and Andrew’s house was, but even if it was the largest house in Capernaum, it still didn’t have room for everyone that wanted to come in and hear Jesus.

Mark says that there were so many people in the house, there was no room to receive them, not even at the door.  Elsewhere, this word is translated “contain” (John 21:25, 2:6).  In other words, the house was overflowing with people, people were outside the door, wanting to get in, but unable to.  Most likely, we’re talking hundreds of people inside and around the house—could your house stand up to this?

And He preached the Word to them.

Amidst the fame and hubbub, in a house overly crowded with people (which probably made things quite warm), Jesus didn’t lose sight of His mission, which was to “preach the Word” to them.  That is, Jesus preached the “kingdom of God is at hand” “repent, ye, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:14-15).  You know that there had to be people in there who were thinking, I’m wantin’ to see some healin’, Jesus.  People who weren’t interested really in the message, but in the spectacle itself.  But it’s like Jesus said several verses earlier, “Let’s go into the next towns so that I may preach there also, for into this I came forth” (Mark 1:38).

The Text, part 2 – The Paralytic is Carried In (Mark 2:3-4)

The crowds were gathered around, and everyone wanted in to see Jesus.  But some were willing to go further than others to accomplish their goals.

They came to Him, carrying a paralytic, lifted up by four men.

What we’ve got here are five men—four of them working together, carrying the fifth one on his bed.

In the East [including Palestine] bedsteads were practically unknown.  An Oriental (that is, middle-eastern) bed is a thin mattress of pallet, just large enough for a man to lie upon; and those generally used by the poor today are made of sheepskin with the wool on it.  Such a bed could easily be carried by four men, if each took hold of a corner. (McGarvey, Fourfold Gospel).

The KJV and ASV both say that the man was “sick of the palsy.”  The word “palsy” is a shortened form of the word “paralysis.”  Every possibility, it seems, has been suggested for this man.  Some suggest that he was incapacitated on one side because of a massive stroke; others that he was gripped with mental anguish over something he had done in his past, which literally paralyzed him (Barclay); still others suggest that he was a quadriplegic.  What we know for certain is that he was bedridden, unable to move freely on his own.  Paralysis had no cure.

If Mark’s readers thought healing leprosy was impressive, they’re about to be even more impressed.  At least with leprosy, you can still talk and breathe with relative ease, and can walk around where you need to go.  With some forms of paralysis (possibly including that which the man was enduring), breathing is a chore and talking is next to impossible.

And when they couldn’t come near to Him because of the multitude…

The KJV says “because of the press,” but the word is the same as is translated “multitude” throughout the New Testament.  The crowd of people was so thick that there was no way of going through the front door and into the house where Jesus was speaking.

They uncovered the roof where he was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed in which the paralyzed man lay.

Let’s backtrack a moment here.  In order for them to “uncover” the roof and break it up, they first had to get to the roof, which isn’t exactly a quick and easy task.  Many books say that these men probably used a set of stairs that were on the outside of the house, leading to the roof.  The problem with that, is that such staircases are “almost unknown” in Palestine.  Most houses had their front door, which led to a “porch” area, and it is there that the stairs to the roof could be located.  But, of course, there was no room to get in at the door.  That leaves really only two choices: (1) either these men found a way of climbing to the roof and jointly hoisted the man up, or (2) they went inside a neighbor’s front door, up the narrow stairs onto their roof (if you’ve ever tried to carry something heavy upstairs, you know that isn’t easy), and then climbed over the ledge between the two houses (houses built side by side are common in that area).  However they got up there, it wasn’t easy, but they thought it was worth it to bring their friend to Jesus.

Getting on the roof was part one.  Now, they had to get through the roof so they could get their friend to Jesus.  According to the historians, the roofs in that area were built with wooden beams a few feet apart, then brush was laid across it very tightly, then mud, then mortar, then it was covered with earth and grass.  Luke adds the detail that they broke through the “tiling” (5:19) which is the Greek word Keramos, where we get our word ceramic.  So these men broke through the ceramic/clay layer, the mortar, the mud, and the brush, making a hole in the roof large enough that they could let their friend down, bed and all, in the room next to Jesus.

The Text, part 3 – The Sins are Carried Away (Mark 2:5-11)

Mark first records the actions of the men, but now he changes to Jesus’ point of view.

Jesus saw their faith.

What wonderful words are contained here!  What glorious evidence that the doctrine of “faith only” (that is, belief only) saves is false!  Faith is not something that is felt.  Faith is not merely belief.  Faith is something you can see!  Thus, it isn’t really faith if there are no works to go along with it!  For “faith without works is dead, being alone” (James 2:20).

If we were to put this in the words of Hebrews 11, we might say “By faith, four men lifted up their paralyzed friend, letting him down to Jesus, trusting that the Lord could heal him.”

But let us not neglect to recognize that this paralyzed man also had faith, otherwise he could have refused to be carried and jostled around in his weakened condition.  The faith that Jesus saw, then, was the faith of the five—not just of the four.

Jesus…said to the paralyzed man, “Child, your sins are forgiven you.”

The compassionate King certainly realized what was happening, for breaking up the roof would not have been a noiseless task.  So slowly but surely, He sees the hole appear and get bigger, and then sees a bed—more like a thick rug—being lowered down beside Him.  Jesus was impressed by their faith.  Then He looks down at the man laying helpless on the ground, and says “Son [literally, Child], your sins are forgiven you.”

Why exactly did Jesus announce “Your sins are forgiven you,” instead of just healing the man like He did with everyone else?  Here’s some possibilities suggested by different writers:

  1. The man’s sins were the cause of his paralysis. Perhaps through a life of constant sin (perhaps drunkenness), he had somehow injured himself or caused himself nerve damage which led to his paralysis. This is pure conjecture, but it is mentioned frequently by writers as a possibility (some even say it is the “likely” answer).
  2. The man had bought into the idea that sickness and disease were caused by sin, and he therefore thought of himself as a wretched sinner, regardless of whether Jesus healed him or not. This, like the previous one, is also conjecture, though we do have several biblical passages which show that this idea was prevalent (throughout the book of Job, and also John 9:1-2). If this is the case, it would be as though Jesus was saying, “Don’t fear, child.  God forgives you,” thus easing the man’s troubled mind.
  3. The one that, personally, I think is most likely is that Jesus said this because there were religious leaders present (Luke 5), and He was now making a little bit more known about Himself and His mission. As will become obvious momentarily, Jesus’ claim to forgiving sins was the same as proclaiming that He was God. He had a point to make, and in doing so, Jesus was showing His authority—still following the idea of the King proving that He had power to overthrow the Kingdom of Darkness.

But there were certain of the scribes sitting there.

It’s most likely that the majority of the crowd was standing while the “privileged” religious leaders got to sit (probably in the front, closest to Jesus).  Luke adds that the Pharisees from Judea and Jerusalem were there as well.

Scribes…reasoning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak these blasphemies?  Who can forgive sins but God only?”

Something interesting here is that the scribes reasoned in their heart that sins could only be forgiven (literally, “sent away”) by the God.  The word “the” appears in the original, just like in 1:1.  In other words, there is only one God that can take away sin.  Mark is reminding his readers that their pagan worship system is false.  After all, most of the religious ceremonies to the Greek and Roman gods dealt with appeasing the various so-called deities, hoping to keep them happy so as to avoid their wrath.  They never really dealt with the idea of cleansing from sin.

But the scribes (and Pharisees), after hearing Jesus pronounce this man’s sins forgiven (literally, “sent away”) weren’t thinking about Roman gods at all.  They began to murmur and think to themselves that Jesus was blaspheming God, by pretending to be able to forgive sins, when only the God—Jehovah—had that capability.  In short, their thoughts were that Jesus was blaspheming by claiming He possessed God’s power.  What they didn’t realize is that since Jesus is God, He therefore has the power to forgive sins.

The word “can” is actually the word translated “power” in many instances.  Their question, literally translated, is: “Who has power to send away sins except only the God?”

Now, for a moment, place yourself in the shoes (sandals) or Mark’s readers.  You’ve read about Jesus, seen His authority, His healings, His compassion, and perhaps you’re withholding judgment.  But now these scribes show up and start mentally bad-mouthing Him.  Probably without even realizing it, you start to defend Jesus.  That’s wrong, scribes, Jesus has that power because He’s Son of the God.  After all, that’s the very first thing you read in this book.  And the main character in the narrative has done nothing but good, but now He is being mischaracterized and accused of evil.  Almost every unbiased reader, whether reading it as a story or reading it looking for the truth, now pictures the scribes as some of the bad guys, and sympathizes with Jesus.

Immediately, when Jesus perceived in His spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, He said to them, “Why do you reason these things in your hearts?”

Jesus could read their minds.  It wasn’t that He looked at their faces and could read their expressions, deducing from them what they were thinking.  Mark says that they thought this, and then immediately Jesus perceived what they were thinking.  This mind-reading is often overlooked when people read this passage, because it is overshadowed by the healing of a paralytic and the proof that Jesus truly forgave the man’s sins—but it is still there!  Only God can know the thoughts of men; and since Jesus knows the thoughts of men, He is God!  This point almost certainly was not missed by Mark’s readers.  He has power over sickness, demons, injuries, and can read minds too?

He said…“Which is easier to say to the paralyzed man: “Your sins are forgiven you;” or to say “Arise, and take up your bed and walk”?

This was a pointed question, and one that gave great evidence as to the nature of Jesus.  The obvious answer, though the scribes considered it blasphemy, was that it was easier to say “Your sins are forgiven you.”  This is because there was no tangible, visible way of proving it one way or the other.  You can’t see sins being carried away from your soul.

The harder statement, of course, is to tell the man to “Arise, and take up your bed and walk.” Because without miraculous power, given by God Himself, those words would do no good.  You would be exposed as a fraud and a charlatan.  Words alone cannot heal a paralyzed man.

He said… “But so that you may know that the Son of man has power on earth to forgive sins,” (He now says to the paralyzed man) “I say to you, ‘Arise, and take up your bed and go your way into your house.”

Jesus forms His argument in this way:

  1. It’s easier to say “Your sins are forgiven you,” because you can’t see it take place.
  2. It’s harder to say “Arise, take up your bed and walk,” because that would require the power of God.
  3. I am saying both—and if the man gets up and walks, it shows that I possess the power of God, and thus have proven that I have the power to forgive sins.

The sub-point to this is, “and you are actually the ones blaspheming, not me.”

The last verse of Mark’s Gospel Account explains the point here, “They went forth and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs [miracles] following” (Mark 16:20).  Miracles were given as confirmation of the message that was spoken.  If Jesus was truly blaspheming God, then He would have no miraculous abilities.  If He was, however, able to heal the paralyzed man, then that proved He was not a blasphemer at all.

One other thing that is interesting is that Jesus calls Himself “the Son of man” for the first time (at least in Mark and Luke’s accounts) here.  For Mark’s readers, this is their introduction to the dual nature of Jesus, as Deity in human flesh.  This is a vital element for them (and us) to understand, because without Jesus being the “Son of man,” He couldn’t have endured the temptation (James 1:13, Hebrews 2:16-18) or died on the cross if He had not come to this earth as a human.

The Text, part 4 – The Bed is Carried Out (Mark 2:12)

Immediately he [the paralytic] arose, took up the bed, and went out in front of them all.

There’s no telling how long this man was paralyzed; no telling how long he’d been bed-ridden.  In all likelihood, the man’s leg muscles had deteriorated greatly, and his joints had no strength at all when he was brought to the Lord.  This miracle was more than just a “you’ve now got the ability to move again,” it was a miraculous re-strengthening of the muscles and joints, this man didn’t have to go through physical therapy to learn how to walk again, either.  The healing was instantaneous and complete, just like the others Jesus had healed.

He was carried in by friends, his sins were carried away by Jesus, and now he—with new strength—carries his own bed out.  Luke adds that as he was walking out with his bed, he was “glorifying God” (Luke 5:25).  The joy this man must have felt was incredible.  We’re told what the reaction of the crowd in the house was (they were amazed), but for a moment, instead of looking at that man with his this mattress, instead of looking at the crowd, look up to the hole in the ceiling and imagine the smiles and tears of joy that almost certainly on the four faces that looked in from above.  Their faith had been rewarded, and they no doubt joined in with the others in glorifying God for this wonderful show of mercy.

Insomuch that they were all amazed

Capernaum wasn’t a huge city, so most of the people probably knew (or at the very least, knew of) the paralyzed man.  So there was no denying that this was a miracle.  Even those who weren’t from the area could probably tell just by looking at the man that he had serious medical problems.  They were all amazed, as were Mark’s readers, by what had just taken place.  Paralysis was supposed to be incurable.

They…glorified God

Even though the scribes and Pharisees might not have accepted the consequences of what they just saw (that Jesus is indeed Deity), they could not deny that a powerful miracle had been performed in their presence.  As such, they, along with everyone else there, glorified God.  You might think it strange, but try to remember that there had been no miracles performed for hundreds of years.  It had been over 400 years since the last inspired prophet of God had walked the earth.  It’s not like these people had seen miracles their whole life—this was something completely new to them, and they gave God the glory for having done it and allowing them to see it.

Saying, “We never saw such!”

These people were amazed, glorified God, saying “We’ve never seen anything like this!”  And yet it still wasn’t enough to cause them to repent (Matthew 11:23-24).  The rich man in torment tried to convince Abraham to send Lazarus back, because “if one went to them from the dead, [my brothers] would repent,” but the answer was “If they will not hear Moses and the prophets [that is, the inspired message of God], neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead” (Luke 16:30-31).  For a while, the citizens of Capernaum were excited and entertained by the miracles; and so long as the miracles were being done, they were interested in following Jesus.  But it seems that they ended up wanting more entertainment and less doctrine—and they received the condemnation of Jesus for it.  There’s a lesson in that for us, no doubt.

Application

Don’t Lose Sight of Your Mission

Amidst the hustle and bustle of life’s busy ways, we often get distracted to the point that we forget what we’re here for.  We simply think about the here and now, the things we’ve got to do, what’s for dinner, where we’re going next week, etc.  And we let the cares and troubles of our lives distract us from our mission of teaching the gospel.  We don’t have near the stress that Jesus did—yet He kept His sights on the mission.  We’re told to “look unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who, for the prize that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

Preach the Word

Jesus taught with authority, because He preached the Word.  He wasn’t teaching for doctrine the commandments of men, He preached the Word.  I spoke with an old preacher who retired from local work years ago about a congregation he’s familiar with.  He said that he’s never heard anything unsound out of the new preacher they’ve got there, but that those sermons could be preached—word for word—in pretty much any denominational building across the United States.  When Jesus preached the Word, it included preaching repentance (Mark 1:15).  When Jesus preached the Word, it included preaching obedience (Matthew 7:21—Not all the say to me “Lord, Lord,” shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of my Father which is in heaven. Luke 6:46 – Why do you call me “Lord, Lord,” and do not the things that I say?).  When Jesus preached the Word, it included preaching the Kingdom of God—the church to which saved people are added (Mark 1:14-15, Acts 2:47, Colossians 1:13).

What Lengths are You Willing to go to?

These four men carried a man on his bed however far it was from his place of residence to Simon and Andrew’s house.  When they realized there was no way of getting in the house normally, they didn’t turn back.  They looked for another way to get him to Jesus.  Whether they scaled the side of the house or climbed up stairs, they still worked hard to get this man there.  Then they tore up the roof and let him down in front of Jesus.  In short, they went through an awful lot of work in the hopes of getting their friend saved from his paralysis.  Jesus took note of their great show of faith.

How much faith do we show in trying to bring others to Jesus?  Do we give up at the first obstacle?  Do we try to find ways of bringing people to Jesus Christ?  How far are you willing to go—what lengths are you willing to go to in order to bring a soul to the saving blood of the Savior?  Let these men and their faith be an example to all of us!

Invitation

Do you really have faith?  Faith in Jesus comes from hearing the message about Him (Romans 10:17), and is an absolute requirement if you want to please God (Hebrews 11:6).  But faith must be alive and working, leading you to repentance while acknowledging Jesus as the Son of God, and causing you to submit to Jesus in faithful obedience through being immersed into His death (Romans 6:1-5).  Faith—true saving faith—will make you want to “walk in the light,” and “be faithful.”  Won’t you come?

-Bradley S. Cobb

Did Paul Receive the Holy Spirit by the Laying on of Hands?

Question: The book of Acts says that Ananias came and laid hands on Paul so that he would “receive the Holy Spirit.”  Does that mean that he had the Holy Spirit before he was baptized? –F.B.U.

To answer this question, we need to look at the text that it comes from:

Acts 9:17-18

And Ananias went his way and entered into the house. And putting his hands on him, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus that appeared to you in the way as you came has sent me so that you might receive your sight, and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales, and he received sight immediately, and arose, and was baptized.

Putting his hands on him…”Brother Saul…receive your sight…”

Here we see the miracle of Saul’s sight being restored. Verse 18 makes it clear that was the result of Ananias’ laying hands on him. That much is clear and undisputed by anyone who believes the Bible.

The question now, though, is what do we make of the phrase “be filled with the Holy Spirit”?

Jesus…has sent me so that you might…be filled with the Holy Spirit.

There are several opinions from scholars as to what this means. Some insist that it is the literal indwelling of the Holy Spirit being given to Saul of Tarsus—prior to baptism—by Ananias laying hands on him. Others say basically the same thing, except they say it was the gift of miracles being given to Saul prior to his baptism by Ananias laying hands on him.

When Luke uses the phrase “filled with the Holy Spirit” or “full of the Holy Spirit,” miracles (usually inspiration) are always under consideration. Examine them for yourself: John the Immerser (Luke 1:15), John’s mother, Elisabeth (Luke 1:41-45), John’s father, Zacharias (Luke 1:67-79), the apostles (Acts 2:4), the apostles again (Acts 4:31), Stephen (Acts 6:5, 7:55-56), Barnabas (Acts 11:22-24), Paul (Acts 13:9-11), and the disciples of Antioch in Pisidia (Acts 13:14, 51-52).

Understanding this, let’s now look at the evidence to come to a rational, biblical conclusion to this potential conundrum.

First, Jesus said that the purpose of Ananias’ laying hands on Saul was so he would receive his sight. That was seen in verse 12 of this same chapter. There was no indication in Jesus’ words that Ananias was going to give Saul the Holy Spirit.

Second, the only result of this event shown in the Bible is that Saul received his sight. After he put his hands on Saul, the Bible only records that Saul received his sight. It says nothing about him receiving the Holy Spirit. If we look at Acts 22, where Saul (who is also called Paul) is telling about this very event, we see that he doesn’t even mention the Holy Spirit at all—but he does mention receiving his sight again.[1]

Third, the ability to pass on the Holy Spirit was only available to the apostles. This is shown in chapter 8, verses 14-18. Ananias was not an apostle, and so—unless someone wishes to argue that Ananias should be classed as an apostle—the evidence is against his being able to pass on this gift.

Fourth, Saul was lost in his sins when Ananias laid his hands on him, and was not a candidate to receive the Holy Spirit, for he had not been baptized. This principle is seen in Acts 8:15-16. Acts 22:12-16 shows that he was still lost in sins after Ananias laid his hands on him. The Holy Spirit was promised only to those who were the obedient servants of God.[2]

Fifth, Paul makes it very clear throughout his life that he did not receive his apostleship from any man. Miracles (the gift of the Holy Spirit) and the ability to pass them on were “the signs of an apostle.”[3] Paul states that he was “an apostle—not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead.”[4] All of the apostles received their miraculous ability direct from heaven.[5] Paul would be no different.

Sixth, we see no record of Saul performing miracles until years later. The first time we read of Saul (now called Paul) doing any miracle is in Acts 13:9-11. This is the first time where Paul is said to be “filled with the Holy Spirit.” Now, this does not mean that Paul was unable to perform miracles prior to Acts 13, but it is supportive evidence that he didn’t receive the Holy Spirit when Ananias laid hands on him. There is no evidence that Saul was able to work miracles before that event.

Seventh, it took the testimony of Barnabas to convince the apostles that Saul was really a disciple of Jesus Christ. You might ask, What does that have to do with anything? If Saul of Tarsus had the miraculous abilities given by the Holy Spirit at this point, it would have been very simple for him to prove to the apostles and other disciples that he was a Christian. But instead, it took Barnabas speaking on his behalf. Though not conclusive, this evidence seems to indicate that at this point Saul did not have the miraculous gift of the Holy Spirit.

Since the evidence implies that Saul did not receive the Holy Spirit when Ananias laid hands on him, what exactly did he mean when he told Saul “Jesus…has sent me so that you might…be filled with the Holy Spirit”?

Ananias’ mission was to heal and baptize Saul; to bring him into the family of God and Christ. As you can see from other passages in Acts,[6] the Holy Spirit was only given to those who were servants of God, and who obey Him. Ananias came to help Saul become spiritually acceptable before God, and thus also help him become a candidate for the reception of the Holy Spirit. It was preparatory work.

-Bradley S. Cobb

[1] Acts 22:12-13

[2] Acts 2:17-18, 5:32

[3] II Corinthians 12:12

[4] Galatians 1:1

[5] Acts 2:1-4, 4:29-31

[6] Acts 2:17-18, 5:32

The Holy Spirit in Acts 17:11?

The following short segment comes from our upcoming book, The Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts.  Enjoy!

Acts 17:11

These [people of Berea] were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether these things were so.

Paul and Silas were both prophets, both spoke by inspiration of God, and Paul (perhaps Silas too) was able to perform miracles—all by the power of the Holy Spirit. Yet God takes a moment to praise the people of Berea because they weren’t content with a prophetic message; they weren’t content with an inspired message; they weren’t content with any miracles that Paul may have performed—they knew that the message had to match up with the Scriptures in order for it to be truly from God.

Prophets were temporary (Zechariah 13:2). Miracles (including inspiration) were temporary (I Corinthians 13:8-10). But God’s word remains forever (I Peter 1:23-25). The word of God is called “the sword [or the weapon] of the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:17). It is the word of God that is able to save the souls of men (James 1:21). Miracles can’t save souls—the word of God can.

The Holy Spirit, therefore, is active in every case of conversion from Pentecost through today—but His tool for converting the lost is the living and active word of God (Hebrews 4:12). The Holy Spirit is also active in guiding Christians ever since Pentecost in the very same way: through the Scripture which is able to make us perfect (II Timothy 3:16-17).

-Bradley Cobb

(NOTE: Today’s image is taken from the cover of a publication called Nobility, which is freely available from the Gravel Hill church of Christ website)

Bible Q&A – Did Paul Receive the Holy Spirit by the Laying on of Hands?

Question: Ananias was sent to Damascus in Acts 9 to lay hands on Saul of Tarsus (later the Apostle Paul).  One of the reasons he came was so that Saul could “receive the Holy Spirit.”  So, did Saul receive the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands?–L.F.

There are several opinions from scholars as to what this means. Some insist that it is the literal indwelling of the Holy Spirit being given to Saul of Tarsus—prior to baptism—by Ananias laying hands on him. Others say basically the same thing, except they say it was the gift of miracles being given to Saul prior to his baptism by Ananias laying hands on him.

When Luke uses the phrase “filled with the Holy Spirit” or “full of the Holy Spirit,” miracles (usually inspiration) are always under consideration. Examine them for yourself: John the Immerser (Luke 1:15), John’s mother, Elisabeth (Luke 1:41-45), John’s father, Zacharias (Luke 1:67-79), the apostles (Acts 2:4), the apostles again (Acts 4:31), Stephen (Acts 6:5, 7:55-56), Barnabas (Acts 11:22-24), Paul (Acts 13:9-11), and the Iconium disciples (Acts 13:52-14:1).

Understanding this, let’s now look at the evidence to come to a rational, biblical conclusion to this potential conundrum.

First, Jesus said that the purpose of Ananias’ laying hands on Saul was so he would receive his sight. That was seen in verse 12 of this same chapter (Acts 9). There was no indication in Jesus’ words that Ananias was going to give Saul the Holy Spirit.

Second, the only result of this event shown in the Bible is that Saul received his sight. After he put his hands on Saul, the Bible only records that Saul received his sight. It says nothing about him receiving the Holy Spirit. If we look at Acts 22, where Saul (who is also called Paul) is telling about this very event, we see that he doesn’t even mention the Holy Spirit at all—but he does mention receiving his sight again (Acts 22:12-13).

Third, the ability to pass on the Holy Spirit was only available to the apostles. This is shown in chapter 8, verses 14-18. Ananias was not an apostle, and so—unless he is classed as an apostle—the evidence is against his being able to pass on this gift.

Fourth, Saul was lost in his sins when Ananias laid his hands on him, and was not a candidate to receive the Holy Spirit, for he had not been baptized. This principle is seen in Acts 8:15-16. Acts 22:12-16 shows that he was still lost in sins after Ananias laid his hands on him. The Holy Spirit was promised only to those who were the obedient servants of God (Acts 2:17-18, 5:32).[1]

Fifth, Paul makes it very clear throughout his life that he did not receive his apostleship from any man. Miracles (the gift of the Holy Spirit) and the ability to pass them on were “the signs of an apostle” (II Corinthians 12:12). Paul states that he was “an apostle—not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead” (Galatians 1:1). All of the apostles received their miraculous ability direct from heaven (Acts 2:1-4, 4:29-31). Paul would be no different.

Sixth, we see no record of Saul performing miracles until years later. The first time we read of Saul (now called Paul) doing any miracle is in Acts 13:9-11. This is the first time where Paul is said to be “filled with the Holy Spirit.” Now, this does not mean that Paul was unable to perform miracles prior to Acts 13, but it is supportive evidence that he did not receive the Holy Spirit when Ananias laid hands on him. There is no evidence that Saul was able to work miracles before that event.

Seventh, it took the testimony of Barnabas to convince the apostles that Saul was really a disciple of Jesus Christ. You might ask What does that have to do with anything? If Saul of Tarsus had the miraculous abilities given by the Holy Spirit at this point, it would have been very simple for him to prove to the apostles and other disciples that he was a Christian. But instead, it took Barnabas speaking on his behalf. Though not conclusive, this evidence seems to indicate that at this point Saul did not have the miraculous gift of the Holy Spirit.

Since the evidence implies that Saul did not receive the Holy Spirit when Ananias laid hands on him, what exactly did he mean when he told Saul “Jesus…has sent me so that you might…be filled with the Holy Spirit”?

Ananias’ mission was to heal and baptize Saul—to bring him into the family of God and Christ. As we’ve seen from other passages in Acts (2:17-18, 5:32), the Holy Spirit was only given to those who were servants of God, and who obey Him. Ananias came to help Saul become spiritually acceptable before God, and thus also help him become a candidate for the reception of the Holy Spirit. It was preparatory work.

[1] The example of Cornelius, who was a faithful servant of God under the Patriarchal Law, will be dealt with in the notes on chapters ten and eleven.

[NOTE: the answer given above is taken from our upcoming book, The Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts]

-Bradley S. Cobb

Bible Q&A – Is Jesus Deity?

This week’s Bible Q&A is the last in the series of letters to “Agnostic Agnes.”  The final assignment was, “You’ve convinced Agnes that God exists, and that the Bible is inspired.  Now answer the question, ‘Is Jesus deity?'”

This letter may make you chuckle along the way, but hopefully it will show that you can answer the question from the Bible.  Enjoy!

Dear Aunt Agnes,

How are things going up there on the farm? I heard that the rain washed out the road to your house and you were stuck there with Uncle Bubba for a whole week. I hope you have recovered from that ordeal. I am proud that you went out and got Junior a job at the chicken houses. At least now, he will have a reason to smell.

Grandpa told me you had some of them “Jehovah’s Witnesses” come to your door a couple days ago. He said they were planning on coming back this weekend. Because of that, I decided to send this in an email so you would have it faster. I know they were telling you that Jesus is not really God or a part of God, but that He was just the first angel that was created. That simply is not true, and I’ll try to explain how you can know that Jesus is not a created angel, but that He truly is and was God.

I guess first, we should start off with a more general question: Did Jesus even exist? There are many people (especially atheists) who say that Jesus is a myth and that He never even came to earth. Jesus did exist, and it is not just stated in the Bible. There are other historical sources that prove that Jesus actually existed. Flavius Josephus was a Jewish historian that worked for the Roman Empire around 40-60 years after Jesus died. He wrote a book called “Antiquities of the Jews” in which he spoke of Jesus, called Him the Christ, mentioned His crucifixion, and even mentioned the “tribe of Christians” that still existed to that day, which were named for Him.

There was another man who, while he was in jail, wrote a letter to his son which asked what good came of the Jews executing their wise king. He then said that the Jewish nation was abolished, but the wise king did not die permanently, because his teaching lived on. This was a reference to Jesus, and was written in AD 73, just 40 or so years after Jesus died. This letter is currently on display at the British Museum.

There are several tombs around Jerusalem that have inscribed on them “remember me, Jesus, in the resurrection.” These tombs are from AD 30-60. These people obviously knew Jesus existed, for they were alive at the same time He was. Even people who were against Christianity wrote of Jesus as being a real person. Another historian, named Cornelius Tacitus, wrote in AD 115-117 that “Christos suffered the extreme punishment by Pontius Pilate, and now the followers have spread their lies in Judea and Rome.” Christos is Jesus Christ, and as you can see from the quote, this guy didn’t like Jesus or the Christians. But notice that He admitted that Jesus did exist.

More examples could be given, but I think this is enough for now to show you that Jesus really did exist.

The Bible states pretty clearly that Jesus is God. First, have you ever noticed that it calls Jesus the “Son of God” quite a bit? That shows that Jesus is God. That might sound confusing, but let me explain. Junior is the son of a Berthwait, right? Because of that, he is a Berthwait also, right? He has the qualities of a Berthwait. Just look at his nose and his stomach. There is no mistaking tat Junior is a Berthwait.

The same is true of Jesus. Since He is the Son of God, you would expect Him to have the characteristics of God. What does the Bible say?

God is eternal. The name Jehovah means “the always existing one.” He told Moses that His name was “I AM.” That is in Exodus 3:14, by the way. Well, is Jesus eternal? He said that “before Abraham was, I AM.” Jesus called Himself the always existing one. That was John 8:58. Since Jesus is always existing, He is God.

God is the creator of all things. The first verse of the Bible starts off “In the beginning God created…” John 1:1 says “in the beginning was the Word,” and in verse 3, “all things were created by Him (the Word), and without Him (the Word) was not anything made that was made.” If God made everything, who is “the Word”? In John 1:14, it says “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father.” So, we can see that the Word was the only begotten of the Father. That means He was God’s own Son, Jesus. So, if Jesus created all things and nothing was created without Him (as it said in John 1:3), Jesus must be God. Genesis 1:1 said God created everything. You might ask the “Jehovah’s Witness” that comes this weekend to explain to you how Jesus could create everything that was ever created if He was created. That would mean that somehow Jesus created Himself, which is impossible. Colossians 1:16 says that by Jesus “all things” were created in heaven or on earth. Since Jesus created everything, He is God.

God is the only one that can forgive sins. I John 1:9 says if Christians confess our sins, God will forgive us of them. Jesus said that while He was on earth, He had the power to forgive people of their sins. Matthew 9:2 and Luke 7:48 show two different time Jesus forgave people of their sins. Since Jesus could forgive sins while He was on earth, He is God.

God alone is worthy of worship. Even Jesus said that “you shall worship the Lord they God, and Him only shall you serve.” The apostles refused to accept worship, and even angels refuse to accept worship. But Jesus accepted it. He was worshipped at many different times, and said nothing against it, but accepted it. Jesus healed a man and later that man worshipped Him (John 9:35-38). The apostles worshipped Him. Since Jesus accepted worship, He is God.

Now understand, it is easy for someone to claim to be eternal, or be the creator, or to be able to forgive sins, but it is an entirely different thing to prove it. In the Bible, people sent from God always were able to back up their words with miracles. The purpose of miracles was to confirm that the message and the messenger were from God. When Moses was told to go speak to the Israelites and tell them that he was leading them out of Egypt, he asked God “what if they don’t believe me?” God gave him three miracles to perform to prove what he said. These are shown in Exodus 4:1-9.

In Mark 16:17-20, the apostles were sent out to spread the gospel, with miracles to confirm the words they were teaching. When someone was able to work genuine miracles, it showed that God approved of their message. The apostles were able to work these miracles, showing that their message was from God. But the words they spoke were Christ’s words, showing that God approved of them teaching about Jesus Christ.

When Jesus said He had power on earth to forgive sins, some people questioned Him and even accused Him of blasphemy. In order to prove that He had the power on earth to forgive sins, He healed the man that He had forgiven. This man had been bedridden for years, but Jesus made him completely healed and the man got up and walked away with his cot. Jesus performed miracles to prove what He said. He proved He was able to forgive sins, so He proved He was God.

Since miracles show God’s approval of the message and the messenger, Jesus’ miracles confirm the things He taught. It shows that Jesus really was eternal, and therefore He was God. It shows that Jesus really could forgive sins, therefore He was God.

There are clear statements from the inspired writers of the Bible that show Jesus is God. John clearly stated that Jesus is God. He said in John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” I know that the “Jehovah’s Witness” told you that it means “the Word was a god,” but that is not true. The original language there literally says “and God was the Word.”

Colossians 2:9 says that in Jesus dwelt all of the fullness of the Godhead bodily. That means Jesus was God in human form. I Timothy 3:16 says that God was manifest (that means clearly seen) in the flesh. Colossians 1:15 says that Jesus was the image of the invisible God.

In Acts 20:28, Paul tells the elders of the church at Ephesus to “take heed to the church of God…which He purchased with His own blood.” When did God buy something with His own blood? I Peter 1:18-19 says Christians are redeemed (bought back) with the precious blood of Christ. This also shows that Jesus is God.

Paul calls Jesus “our glorious God” in Titus 2:13. He calls God our savior in Titus 1:3, and in the next verse, He calls Christ our savior, showing that they are one and the same. Hebrews 1:8 shows God saying to Jesus “thy throne, o God…” So God calls Jesus “God.”

I think that should give you enough information for now to show that Jesus really is God. But while we’re on the topic of Jesus, there’s one more thing I think I ought to discuss before I let you go.

Some people, realizing that they can’t argue with the evidence of Jesus’ existence, have tried to say that Jesus never really died on the cross, or if He did, He never was raised from the dead. Neither one of those statements are true.

First, just look at all the people in the Bible who confirmed that Jesus died on the cross. All four gospel writers state that He died (specifically, that He “gave up the ghost”). The soldiers who were in charge of the crucifixion confirmed that Jesus was dead (John 19:32-33). Pilate was told Jesus was dead, but made sure for himself by sending for the Centurion in charge (Mark 15:44-45). After He was dead, even the Pharisees (Jesus’ enemies) confirmed He was dead (Matthew 27:63). Therefore, there is no way that He could have just fainted on the cross.

There is no doubt, going by the Bible, that Jesus was indeed dead. He was buried in a tomb, and the tomb was sealed. The Sunday after He died, the tomb was found empty. The burial cloths were still there, including the face cloth folded by itself. This shows that no grave robber could have taken the body, because they would not have unwrapped the body and then taken it. If the disciples had stolen the body, they would have taken it as is, and the burial cloths would not be left there.

There were many witnesses that saw Jesus after He was risen from the dead. Mary Magdalene saw Him first (Mark 16:9). Afterwards, Peter saw Him (I Corinthians 15:4-5). He was seen by the apostles on multiple occasions (John 20). He was seen by Paul (Acts 9:1-7). He was even seen by around 500 disciples at the same time, most of which were still alive when Paul pointed this fact out (I Corinthians 15:6).

This is evidenced by the change that happened in the life of the apostles after the resurrection. Before Jesus died, the apostles abandoned Him because they feared for their own lives. After the resurrection, they spoke boldly in the face of the same Jewish leaders who had Jesus put to death. Before the resurrection, the disciples met in secret (John 20:19), afterwards, they boldly proclaimed Jesus in the temple in front of thousands (Acts 2). The fact that their lives changed so dramatically shows that the resurrection was true. If the resurrection was a lie, they would not have been willing to take all the constant persecution and possible death that came with being a Christian. Paul even said that if the resurrection was fake, all of his hope was worthless (I Corinthians 15:13-14).

If the resurrection is not a fact, the entire Bible is unreliable. If the resurrection is not a fact, the Bible is a lie. That would mean we have no hope of heaven, we have no right to pray to God to ask for help, and we have no purpose in this world but to live and die. But since the Bible is inspired, we can trust what it says. Jesus was resurrected, and we have our hope!

Throughout the New Testament, evidence is seen of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. That’s what baptism pictures. Paul said in Romans 6:3-4 that we are baptized into His death (therefore He died), and we are raised with Him (therefore He was risen from the dead) to walk in newness of life.

Well, Aunt Agnes, I didn’t mean to write such a long email, but I hope this is helpful. If you need anything else, just let me know. Our teacher has given us a lot of good material on these things, and if you want I can copy them off for you and mail them your way. Tell Uncle Bubba I’m sending them postage due like he did with my birthday card last year. Grandpa still cracks up when he thinks about it.

Brad