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Lesson 3: Forgiving, Calling, Claiming, And Appointing (Mark 2:1-3:19)

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Jesus knew our greatest need. It wasn’t health or wealth. It was removal of the sin barrier between us and God. The needs of the heart trump the physical needs. He presents this to the people in His interaction with those who seem to ignore this truth or think they can’t be worthy in God’s sight.

Day One Study

Ask the Lord Jesus to speak to you through His Word. Tell Him that you are listening.

Read Mark 2:1-12.

Historical Insight: Capernaum was a fairly large town with about 1500 residents and the major center of trade and commerce in Galilee. The international trade route from Egypt through Palestine to Syria and Mesopotamia passed nearby. Caravans came through with travelers and merchants from many nations and stations of life—not only Jews but non-Jews (also called Gentiles). It was also a tax collecting center for the Romans. Travelers and merchants had to stop and pay a tax on their way through town. Fishermen and farmers had to pay a tax when they sent out their products. So, a lot of tax collectors were headquartered in Capernaum—like Levi in Mark 2. Roman soldiers were stationed there to keep peace at this busy intersection.

The climate was so good that the locals thought of Capernaum as a “paradise.” Palm trees grew along the boulevards. Fruits and vegetables multiplied so the farmers were prosperous as were the fishermen. Nearly everyone lived on the same level economically. Jesus adopted Capernaum as His hometown and the center of His ministry in Galilee. Five of His 12 disciples came from there. It was an ideal place for Jesus to spread out His message. And, the inhabitants of Capernaum had many opportunities to see and hear Jesus.

1. Discover the Facts: It is generally thought that Peter’s house in Capernaum was Jesus’s home base. Since Peter was married (Mark 1:30; 1 Corinthians 9:5), see what is happening here through the eyes of his wife (Mrs. Peter). Picture crowds inside and outside the house.

  • What news did the people hear (v. 1)?
  • What is the situation in the house (v. 2)?
  • What is Jesus doing?
  • What happens next (vv. 3-4)?
  • What does He see and say (v. 5)?
  • Who was also present and watching (v. 6)?
  • What were they thinking (vv. 6-7)?
  • What does Jesus know about them (v. 8)?
  • What does He say (v. 9)?
  • Why does He then heal the man (vv. 10-11)?
  • What is the healed man’s response (v. 12)?
  • What is the crowd’s response?

Historical Insight: The Pharisees were an influential group of ~6000 men whose goal for about 150 years was that Israel would stay true to Judaism and never go back to idolatry. So, they emphasized keeping every bit of the law of Moses plus 100s of man-made laws. Since the Pharisees found that other Jews were not careful enough keeping those laws, they looked on other people as tainted by sin and, therefore, to be avoided. By Jesus’s day, they had become so self-satisfied with their law-keeping that they were hard-hearted to the things of God and His people. The “teachers of the law” (also called “scribes” or “lawyers”) were like today’s seminary professors since many of them taught in the Jerusalem seminary.

2. What did the 4 men think that their paralyzed friend’s most important need was? How do you know?

3. What did Jesus think was the man’s most important need? How do you know?

Scriptural Insight: This is an illustration of the difference between real needs and felt needs. Whereas the paralyzed man’s felt need was his need to walk again, his real need was to remove the barrier of sin that separated him from God. In Jesus’s mind, the man’s real need trumped his physical needs. Jesus took care of his real need first then his felt need. We see him doing this by teaching crowds of people everywhere He went about a relationship with God even while healing those who were sick.

4. How do Jesus’s action and words in vv. 8-9 answer the question asked silently in v. 7?

5. What is missing in the religious leaders’ attitude toward the paralyzed man?

Think About It: The Jews in bondage to Rome longed for the Kingdom. Jesus offered them the Kingdom and freedom from their bondage to sin. Many rejected it.

6. Heartbreak to Hope: The Pharisees and teachers of the law are always watching Jesus, always finding fault with Him. How do you feel about someone who always finds fault with you? Jesus gets it. He dealt with it every day.

Read Mark 2:13-17 and Luke 5:27-32.

Historical Insight: Tax collectors sat at a tollbooth along the highways collecting Roman taxes on toll roads and customs on merchandise. They were considered greedy, on a get-rich-quick path to success since they could exact a surcharge on people, charging up to 4 times the tax fee itself. Because they were in collusion with the Romans, they were hated by most Jews as cheats and traitors. The tax collectors and their wives were not permitted to attend the synagogue. So, they formed their own social group. As to skills, tax collectors were educated men who could write in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek. They carried an inkwell and paper with them to use for record keeping. The fact that Levi has two names—Levi Matthew—speaks to his wealth and prominence in the community. You will see throughout the gospels that tax collectors were drawn to Jesus.

1. Discover the Facts: Jesus calls another man to become His disciple—Levi, whom we know better as Matthew, the writer of the gospel by that name.

  • What is happening (v. 13)?
  • Who does Jesus see (v. 14)?
  • When Jesus says, “Follow me,” how does Levi respond (v. 14)?

Think About It: Jesus knew Levi’s longing heart and offered hope by saying 2 words, “Follow me.” If there was a Mrs. Levi, she shared in her husband’s disgrace. When Jesus got a hold of her husband, it would affect her life as well.

  • Where is Jesus later (v. 15)?
  • Who is there (v. 15)? See also Luke 5:29.
  • Who else showed up outside to listen and watch (v. 16)?
  • What did they see Jesus doing?
  • What question did they ask about this?

Scriptural Insight: Sinners were the really bad people such as money-changers, thieves and prostitutes. They were considered scum like the tax collectors but from a lower class.

  • What is Jesus’s answer to them (v. 17)? See also Matthew 9:13.

Focus on the Meaning: According to the Pharisees’ teaching, God’s mercy extended only to those who kept the Law (including their laws). But, what is mercy? It is being pardoned and not getting the judgment or punishment we deserve. Forgiveness of sins is mercy. Jesus offered mercy to every tax collector and sinner. Levi said yes to the offer and probably left 10 times more income to follow Jesus than the fishermen did. Levi is known more by his other name Matthew (beloved of God) which speaks of his new identity. He also got a new way to use his writing skills. The Gospel of Matthew is the longest gospel and contains more of Jesus’s sermons than any other. In it, he refers to himself as “Matthew, the tax collector”—what he is now (beloved) and how he was known before Jesus came into his life.

2. Read Luke 3:12-13. Tax collectors were drawn to John the Baptist’s preaching and came to be baptized. What did he tell them?

3. Heartbreak to Hope: The paralyzed man was in need. But, so was healthy, wealthy Levi.

  • Do you know someone like that who is smart and seemingly doing well in life but hopeless? Someone who is desperately in need of God’s mercy right now? What about that woman next door or sitting in that office? What can you tell her about your own acceptance of Jesus’s offer of mercy to you that would give them hope?
  • Are you the one needing God’s mercy right now? Will you accept Jesus’s offer of mercy and forgiveness so your life can be changed by Jesus like Matthew’s life was changed?
  • Perhaps your own “house neighbors” need the Jesus living in you to extend mercy to them, the kind of mercy you’ve already received from Him. Ask Jesus to help you do this.

Write A Prayer To God In Response To What He Has Shown You In This Lesson.

Day Two Study

Ask the Lord Jesus to speak to you through His Word. Tell Him that you are listening.

Read Mark 2:18-22.

Scriptural Insight: Fasting is a voluntary abstinence from food and/or drink as an expression of religious devotion. In the Old Testament, God prescribed one yearly fast for all Jews on the Day of Atonement as an act of repentance and mourning over sin. By the time of the New Testament, some Jews practiced personal “fasting” (for example, Anna in Luke 2:37). Jesus did not by practice or by teaching stress fasting. The Pharisees promoted voluntary fasts for their disciples twice a week (on Mondays and Thursdays) as an act of piety. The feast in Levi’s house may have occurred on one of those days. Jesus’s parable referred to the Jewish custom exempting the friends of the bridegroom from certain religious obligations such as the weekly fasts. God was doing something new and different. It was the time for celebrating, not mourning, because the long-awaited Kingdom was here. After Pentecost, Jewish Christians continued to fast, but there is no record of Gentile Christians doing so.

1. Discover the Facts: This is a curious passage. The Pharisees are continually challenging Jesus’s practices and comparing those to what they consider acceptable.

  • What oppositional question do they ask (v. 18)?
  • How does Jesus answer them in vv. 19-20?
  • What does He say about adding new things to old forms (vv. 21-22)?

Think About It: As Christians, we operate under grace and are free to fast or not to fast as we feel led by the Spirit of God to do so. Any time you feel coerced by others to fast, go to the Lord and ask Him, “Is this what you want me to do?” The Lord is pleased with whatever you give Him, as long as it is His idea and His power and not something you do in your own flesh (in your own power without relying on Him). (Sue Bohlin, Probe Ministries)

Read Mark 2:23-28.

2. Discover the Facts: Does it seem to you like the Pharisees are stalking Jesus? Here they are again with another oppositional question.

  • One Sabbath, what was Jesus doing (v. 23)?
  • What is the question asked by the Pharisees this time (v. 24)?
  • How does Jesus answer them (vv. 25-26)?
  • Then, what does He teach about the purpose of the Sabbath (v. 27)?
  • What claim does He make for Himself (v. 28)?

3. It was according to the Pharisees that Jesus’s actions were unlawful, not according to God. Anyone can feed themselves on the Sabbath. The restriction to working on the Sabbath was for work that led to harvesting a crop to sell. Were Jesus and His disciples doing this?

Write a prayer to God in response to what He has shown you in this lesson.

Day Three Study

Ask the Lord Jesus to speak to you through His Word. Tell Him that you are listening.

Read Mark 3:1-6.

Historical Insight: According to Dr. Paul Brand, the late world-renowned leprosy physician, the best example in the Bible of a person with Hansen’s disease is the man with the withered hand in Mark 3:5. He likely suffered from tuberculoid leprosy. (Answers Magazine, Vol. 2 No. 3, “Biblical Leprosy: Shedding Light on the Disease that Shuns,” p. 78)

1. Discover the Facts: With the question of what is lawful to do on the Sabbath in their minds (2:24), Jesus’s opposition once again closely watched Him to see what He would do in the synagogue.

  • What is the situation (vv. 1-2)?
  • What did Jesus say anyway (v. 3)?
  • What question does Jesus ask to counter their illogical thinking (v. 4)?

Think About It: The Pharisees believed in Jesus’s power to perform miracles. The question was not “Could He?” but “Would He?” Jewish tradition prescribed that aid could be given the sick on the Sabbath only when the person’s life was threatened, which obviously was not the case here. (NIV Study Bible 1984 Edition, note on Mark 3:2, p. 1497)

  • What did He recognize in them and how did He feel about that (v. 5)?
  • What happens next (v. 5)?
  • What is the response of the opposition to Jesus now (v. 6)?

Historical Insight: The Herodians were influential Jews who supported Rome. Normally, the Pharisees would have avoided them in every possible situation. But, their hatred of Jesus is so strong that they plot to kill Him. Now, who is really breaking the Law of Moses? The legalists plotted to break the Law to kill Jesus.

Jesus had a normal human emotional response of anger and distress against the stubborn hearts of the religious people who think they have it “right” and are not teachable. Their hard hearts angered and saddened our Lord. The Jewish people looked up to these religious leaders and were being led away from God, not toward Him, by their influence.

2. Heartbreak to Hope: Do you also feel anger and distress against hard-hearted people in your life? Jesus understands exactly how you feel. He didn’t stop teaching truth to those who were in opposition to Him or whose hearts seemed so uncompassionate towards the hurting. He did the right thing. He can help you do the right thing, also. Just ask for it.

Read Mark 3:7-12.

3. Discover the Facts: More crowds, more teaching, and more demonstrations of God’s power present in Jesus …

  • What did Jesus do (v. 7)?
  • What kept Him from getting away with His disciples (vv. 8-9)?
  • What did He use to help Him stay focused on His priority of teaching the crowd (vv. 10-11; 4:1)?
  • What interaction did Jesus have with the evil spirits (vv. 11-12)?

4. Heartbreak to Hope: What in today’s lesson speaks to your heart?

Write A Prayer To God In Response To What He Has Shown You In This Lesson.

Day Four Study

Ask the Lord Jesus to speak to you through His Word. Tell Him that you are listening.

Read Mark 3:13-19 and Luke 6:12-16.

1. Discover the Facts: Jesus needed to make a big decision. He would choose some of His many followers (disciples) to be appointed for special service.

  • What did He do before this moment (Luke 6:12-13)?
  • Where did Jesus go to call together those He wanted (v. 13)?
  • How many did He appoint and designate “apostles” (v. 14)?
  • What would be their three-fold purpose (vv. 14-15)?

2. List those He chose plus what is said about them. Note: when comparing the lists in Matthew 10:2-4 and Luke 6:14-16 with what is here in Mark, some men were known by two names (Bartholomew was also Nathaniel; Thaddeus was also called Judas son of James).

From the Greek: The word translated “apostle” means “delegate, one sent with a special commission.”

3. Why would it be good to have these 12 dedicated Apostles? Consider all the various aspects of being with Jesus.

4. Heartbreak to Hope: Though we are not called to be “Apostles,” we are called by Jesus to be with Him. We are with Him continually because His Spirit lives in us. But, we can be with Him like the Apostles were through what He chose to have His Apostles record for us—now the New Testament writings. When you spend time reading a portion of the New Testament, you are with Jesus so He can teach you and send you out to tell others what you learned from Him. When is your daily designated time to be with Jesus?

5. Heartbreak to Hope: Reflect back on this whole lesson, how did someone experiencing heartbreak, pain, or uncertainty find hope, healing and love?

Write A Prayer To God In Response To What He Has Shown You In This Lesson.

[For additional application to this lesson, read the following essay, “Walking Home with Jesus.”]

— — — — —

Walking Home With Jesus

Where do you live? Picture it in your mind. Do you inhabit a house in a neighborhood or in the country? Do you reside in an apartment? Or, do you occupy a room of someone else’s house? Home is where you live—where you do life together with family and friends. You may spend so much time in an office or in your car that you might feel like you live there. 

Now picture the people who live or work around you. Anyone who is not you is your neighbor. Those are all part of your “neighborhood.”

In our lesson today, Mark describes what takes place in two homes filled with real people in a real town. Just like that, you and I go home every day to real places surrounded by real people in a real town. The real town for Jesus was Capernaum. Mark wrote,

Now after some days, when he returned to Capernaum, the news spread that he was at home.” (Mark 2:1)

Jesus made this town His home base for ministry to all sides of the Sea of Galilee. He made Himself at home among His new neighbors. And, He does the same thing with us.

I recently rediscovered this verse:

Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and take up residence with him.” (John 14:23)

Isn’t that delightful? That means walking in the door of wherever we live, Jesus is “with” us. And, what I think Jesus wants us to know today is this: we can experience and enjoy His presence in our homes—daily—and so can our neighbors.

What does it mean to walk home with Jesus? Let’s look at the first real home in Capernaum—Peter’s house, where the paralyzed man was healed.

Enjoying Jesus’s Presence At Home (Peter’s House)

Scholars and tradition strongly hold that Peter’s house became “the house of Jesus.” Whenever Jesus was in Capernaum, He walked across a small rocky yard through the front door, into the courtyard of a large house and dwelled there with His new “house neighbors.” Who were they?

For sure, Peter and Andrew, plus Peter’s wife—let’s call her Mrs. Peter—and Mrs. Peter’s mother (Mark 1:30). Later in Mark, when the disciples were in the house arguing about something, Jesus takes a little child in His arms. I doubt if He reached out the window and grabbed one off the street! So, I think there were children in Jesus’s new home.

What do you think it was like for Mrs. Peter to experience Jesus’s presence in her home? Of course, there were the fun things…like great conversation around the dinner table! What about how He healed her mom? That’s answered prayer, isn’t it? Especially since she had so many men to feed. Jesus not only ate meals that she prepared, He also befriended her husband and discipled him to be a more mature man. And, ladies, she got to learn from Him herself as He taught in her home. Whenever He was present in her home, she could enjoy Him.

To Enjoy Jesus’s Presence In Your Home Means To Accept It As An Absolute Fact.

Before we can begin to enjoy Him, we must accept His continual presence as an absolute fact. I don’t mean Jesus lives in the walls or ceilings of your house. You’re not going to find Him hiding in the closet. Nothing spooky like that. This is what I mean: When you and I hear the good news of Christ and put our faith in Him, the Holy Spirit, who’s called the Spirit of Christ, comes to live inside of you and me. We become united with Jesus Christ—one with Him in Spirit. For me, that means He lives in me, and I live in Him. When I am in my house, He’s with me. When I leave my house, He is still with me. What I do, He’s in on it.

That’s true for anyone who trusts in Him. And, get this: we can enjoy Jesus’s presence even when life is not presently enjoyable.

Sometimes life was a bit challenging for Mrs. Peter. For instance, the evening after her mom was healed, every sick person in the whole town was at her front door! How do you think she felt about that? How would you feel? If the townspeople in today’s lesson were crammed into her house to hear Jesus preach, that would mean wall-to-wall sweaty people sitting on her chairs and floor mats. Then, what happens? Crumbled mud starts dropping down all over her floor. She looks up and sees four men tearing this huge hole in her roof to let their friend’s stretcher down near Jesus. What do you think she might have been thinking? Even if it wasn’t Mrs. Peter’s house, it was someone’s house. What would you be thinking?

Some of those sweaty people were likely friends whom she knew and liked—her “street neighbors.” Jesus may have healed some of them outside her front door a while back. They were interested or already believed in Him like the four men and their desperate friend.

But, some of Mrs. Peter’s neighbors were not so nice. Here, Mark introduces us to some critical snobs called Pharisees—a small but influential group of men whose goal for about 150 years was that Israel would stay true to Judaism and never go back to idolatry. So, they emphasized keeping every bit of the law of Moses plus 100s of man-made laws. By Jesus’s day, they had become so self-satisfied with their law-keeping that they were hard-hearted to the things of God and His people. “Teachers of the law” also called “scribes” or “lawyers” were like modern lawyers or seminary professors.

For Mrs. Peter, these lawyers had traveled from all parts of Israel to prominently place themselves in her house, on her chairs and cast their critical remarks. How do you feel about someone who always finds fault with you? Who comes into your home to do the white glove test on your windowsills? All of these were in the presence of Jesus in Mrs. Peter’s home. She needed to accept that reality. And, there’s one more thing…

To Enjoy Jesus’s Presence In Your Home Means Giving Him Permission To Make It His Own.

For Mrs. Peter, it meant all her life. Whenever Jesus was in Capernaum, He and his disciples probably stayed in her house. That meant feeding a bunch more men besides her own. Crowds gathered at the door at mealtime so they could hardly eat before the food got cold. You’ll see this in the next lesson. Later on, a church met in her home. Mrs. Peter needed to remember who made His home in her house. And so do we.

I remember the time when the youth in our church met in someone’s home for mid-week Bible study. They played games outside, took their shoes off as they walked into the front door, and sprawled their sweaty bodies everywhere in Paula’s living room. Paula’s beautiful house reflected her gift for decorating and making things lovely. But, week after week for about four years, forty kids were welcomed there to get to know Jesus. I’m sure something was broken or stained during that time. But, Paula gave permission for Jesus to make her home His own. And, kids got to experience His presence in her home.

Here’s what I think Jesus wants us to know: when we go to wherever it is that we live, we walk in that door with Him. He wants us to give Him permission to make it His own.

Likely that won’t involve having crowds of people crammed into your place and tearing holes through your roof. But, it might. What do you do then? If you prayed about the place where you are now living, for what did you ask God? Something affordable? Comfortable? Near good schools? We pray; God answers by providing a place. Then what? Do we consider that God has provided not only for our shelter but also for His use?

A picture has been on our living room wall for about 35 years. It reads: “This is the Lord’s house, temporarily occupied by the Newtons.” Looking at this should remind me that Jesus gave us this place to live but not just for our comfort and enjoyment. It is His home, too. Am I enjoying His presence here? Does He have permission to use it to introduce Himself to His neighbors?

Remember the question I asked at the beginning. Who are your neighbors? The answer is, “Anyone who is not you.” That includes all your “house neighbors”—a husband if you are married, children or grandchildren if you have them, a roommate—as well as your “street neighbors” or “work neighbors” who live next door or work with you. Jesus was at home in Mrs. Peter’s house. She believed in Him, experienced and enjoyed His presence. And while Jesus stayed there, He got to know his new neighbors, including the one who owned the next real home we are visiting—Levi.

The Neighbors Enjoying Jesus’s Presence (Levi’s House)

Levi was on a “get rich quick” path of life. A tax collector back then was like a drug dealer today, except his business was legal. The Romans collected a tax on everything including highway tolls and customs on any goods you carried through the city. That’s what Levi was doing—sitting in his tollbooth, collecting that money. To do this job meant that he was educated and could write in Hebrew, Latin and Greek. His job required that he carry an inkwell at his waist and some paper for making notes.

Tax collecting was for the greedy. You could charge whatever you wanted above Rome’s share to line your own pockets. So, if you were a Jewish tax collector you were considered a cheat, a liar, and a traitor—the scum of Jewish society along with the “sinners” (really bad people like moneychangers, thieves, and prostitutes). Tax collectors were so despised that they were not allowed to attend synagogue or to testify in court.

Remember that paralyzed man in Peter’s house? He was desperate. But, so was healthy, wealthy Levi! Do you live near someone like that? Smart, but hopeless. Jesus knew his desperate condition and offered hope by saying two words, “Follow me.” Levi did. So, Jesus walked home with his new neighbor, Levi.

Paul asserts in 1 Corinthians 9:5 that all the Apostles had believing wives so Levi was probably married. Let’s call her Mrs. Levi. Her husband’s disgrace extended to her, also. No synagogue for her. The Jewish community shunned her. Perhaps there is someone in your neighborhood, even in your church, who has experienced this. She’s married to a guy who has a prison record, who struggles with pornography, who is a registered sex offender or an alcoholic. How do you feel about her? How does she feel about herself?

Jesus’s Presence Brings A Life Change.

If there was a Mrs. Levi, how do you think she felt when Jesus walked through her front door, arm-in-arm with her husband? We don’t know. But, something had changed her husband. And, it would change her life as well.

Look at what Levi did to celebrate his new relationship with Jesus. He threw a big party. Yay! And, look who he invited—guys from the office. Mrs. Levi was probably used to that. They stuck together. And, they brought friends—moneychangers, thieves, and maybe a prostitute or two. Jesus came with His disciples and those who followed Him. Plus, look who else showed up. The Pharisees were listening outside the front door, peering through the windows. Unlike Peter’s house, they would not have stepped foot inside this one!

Wherever Jesus goes, people are always watching, asking questions. Those lawyers saw Him do the unexpected—eating with “sinners.” So, they asked, “Why?” Back then, eating with someone was a sign of friendship so how could a preacher be a friend to sinners? You know that before those Pharisees would have eaten one bite of food with Levi, they would’ve demanded Levi wash 7 times in the Jordan River plus completely sanitize his house. Even that wouldn’t be enough! But, that’s not how our Jesus is.

Sure, Mr. and Mrs. Levi didn’t go to church to hear Jesus. They were guilty of sin in their lives just like we are. And, they needed God’s mercy just like we do. Mercy is God’s amnesty. It’s being pardoned and not getting the judgment or punishment we deserve.

Who in your life is desperately in need of God’s mercy right now? What about that woman next door or sitting in that office? We are supposed to allow Jesus to use His presence in our lives and homes to reach them. Perhaps your own “house neighbors” need the Jesus living in you to extend mercy to them, the kind of mercy you’ve already received from Him.

Jesus’s Presence Brings New Purpose.

Levi became known by another name—Matthew—meaning, “beloved of God.” That name certainly reflected his new identity. Mrs. Levi was no longer Mrs. Tax Collector but Mrs. Matthew, also beloved of God. And, Matthew had a new way to use his skills. His is the longest gospel and records more of Jesus’s teachings than the other authors do. In his own gospel, Matthew lists himself among the apostles as “Matthew, the tax collector.” That reflects what he was after Jesus came into his life, beloved of God, and how he was known before that time.

And, Matthew’s account of this story records Jesus saying to the Pharisees, “Go and learn what this means. ‘I (God) desire mercy and not sacrifice.’” Mercy is what Levi needed. Mercy is what his wife and friends needed. Jesus offered it to them all—right there in Mrs. Levi’s home.

To Mrs. Peter and Mrs. Levi, Jesus was God with skin on. He isn’t here on earth in His body anymore. But, remember, His Spirit comes to live inside our spirits so that in essence…

Jesus Lives Where I Live; My Neighbors Are His Neighbors.

Homes were significant to Jesus’s ministry on earth. In homes, He taught and had discussions with His disciples. You’ll see this throughout Mark (as in Mark 7:17; 9:33; 10:10). In homes, He ate with those who loved Him as well as with those who were skeptical of Him (Luke 7:36-47, 14:1). In homes, women sat at His feet, listening to Him teach and tearfully pouring out their hearts to Him. Yep. Homes were central to His ministry then and are still important now. Do you think that way?

Did you see the third home in today’s lesson? In Peter’s house, what did Jesus tell the healed man to do? Jesus said, “Go…home.” Why not to the synagogue? You know, go brag to the priests and rabbis? What was at home? The people who loved him and cared for him. Who do you think enjoyed Jesus’s presence more that day: the Pharisees or the healed man and his family?

Jesus often told people to go home. Later, in Mark 5, he said to another healed man, “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how He has had mercy on you.” And, the man did that.

Henry Ward Beecher, a 19th century preacher, declared this,

“If you want your neighbor to know what Christ will do for him, let the neighbor see what Christ has done for you.”

I’ll go back to my original question. Where do you live? And, what has Jesus done in your life and my life that our “house neighbors” and “street neighbors” need to know about?

I recently heard one of my favorite teachers, Josh McDowell, reference Psalm 26:3 which says this about God:

For I am ever aware of your faithfulness, and your loyalty continually motivates me. [believing response]. (Psalm 26:3)

Then, he said this:

“Relationships determine what we believe. We are talked into talking; we are loved into loving; we are related into believing.” (Josh McDowell, Dallas Theological Seminary Commencement, May 2005)

A loving relationship with God incites me to accept His truth. A loving relationship with a child stimulates that child to accept the truth by which I live. A loving relationship with a neighbor, co-worker, or family member just might stir that person to accept the truth that drives my life. That’s why Jesus sent those men and others home. “Go to the ones with whom you have a relationship and introduce me to them.”

Another one of my favorite teachers from the 20th century, Howard Hendricks, said this:

“You can impress people at a distance; you can only impact them up close. The general principle is this: the closer the personal relationship, the greater the potential for impact. “

Impact starts with you enjoying your relationship with Jesus:

  • Knowing He is constantly with you, never abandoning you.
  • Spending frequent time with Him in Bible reading and prayer. Did you know that as you are doing your Bible study, you can be talking to Jesus about it the whole time? He’s enjoying it with you.
  • Talking to Him about the big and small stuff in your life.
  • Doing life together with Him all day long.

Have you been enjoying His presence like that? You can. I can. Then, we’ll have something to offer to our neighbors—”house neighbors,” “street neighbors,” and “work neighbors.”

Now What?

We have just started this study of Mark. Maybe you are curious but not yet convinced about Jesus. Is the Holy Spirit drawing you today to commit yourself to Him? If the prayer of your heart is for Jesus to have mercy on you, a sinner, at this moment Jesus is saying to you, “Follow Me.” Say yes. And, when you go home today, you’ll be walking home with Jesus. Please don’t leave this lesson without knowing for sure.

If you are already a Christian, what are you going to do with this message? You can enjoy Jesus’s presence in your life and home. Then, think, feel, and act like Jesus when it comes to interacting with your neighbors.

To Think Like Jesus

Jesus was selective in how He spent His relationship time. Even He couldn’t spend time with everybody. So, define your “neighborhood” accordingly. If you can only have time for the two people on either side of you, that’s okay. Two is more than none. Submit your “neighborhood” to the Lord, and say, “Lord, you live where I live. I know these are your neighbors, too. Please make me willing to be available for you to use me to introduce them to you.”

To Feel Like Jesus

Feeling like Jesus starts with longing for those who live near you to experience and enjoy His presence as you do.

  • You can pray, “Lord Jesus, please give me your heart for them.”
  • You can ask God to draw them to Himself (John 6:44) and for His Spirit to convince them of their sin and need for Jesus (John 16:8-10).
  • You can also pray for her closest friend to get saved and then share the gospel with her.
  • You can ask Jesus to help you know their needs and how they are thinking.
  • You can extend mercy to the Mrs. Levi in your life.

To Act Like Jesus

What would it look like to act like Jesus?

1. Plan ways to interact with them. I don’t think Jesus accidentally walked by Levi’s tollbooth, do you? In America, we have a big obstacle—privacy. We go in the house and shut the door. We have privacy fences and closed garages. We have back decks and pools to spend our time. Who’s looking out the front as neighbors go by our houses?

2. Pay attention to the emotions and needs expressed in your conversations with them. God can use your natural nosiness in a constructive way!

3. Pursue opportunities to build relationships with the one who seems interested in spiritual things. Like the 4 friends who banded together to bring their needy friend to Jesus, surround your friend with other Christians—contractors, insurance agents, and doctors. Research says a typical unchurched person must get to know at least 5 believers relationally before she will cross the line and trust the message of Christianity.

Reflect and Respond

Related Topics: Gospels, Women's Articles

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