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Psalm 91:9-16 1
9 If you make the Most High your dwelling—even the LORD, who is my refuge- 10 then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent. 11 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; 12 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. 13 You will tread upon the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent. 14 “Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. 15 He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. 16 With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation.”

img129Background 2

There is nothing in Psalm 91 that tells us who wrote it or when. It may be “words that Moses prayed”, as Psalm 90. The two psalms do have the same feeling. Jesus knew this psalm. He repeated words from it when his enemy (Satan) tried to tempt him. “Tempt” means “try to make someone do what they should not do”. The story is in Matthew 4:11.

Biblical Truths 3

Whatever happens, nothing shall hurt the believer; though trouble and affliction befall, it shall come, not for his hurt, but for good, though for the present it be not joyous but grievous. Those who rightly know God, will set their love upon him. They by prayer constantly call upon him. His promise is, that he will in due time deliver the believer out of trouble, and in the mean time be with him in trouble. The Lord will manage all his worldly concerns, and preserve his life on earth, so long as it shall be good for him. For encouragement in this he looks unto Jesus. He shall live long enough; till he has done the work he was sent into this world for, and is ready for heaven. Who would wish to live a day longer than God has some work to do, either by him or upon him? A man may die young, yet be satisfied with living. But a wicked man is not satisfied even with long life. At length the believer’s conflict ends; he has done for ever with trouble, sin, and temptation.

Items for Discussion

  • How does the old adage, “love is blind” describe the relationship with God that the psalmist is describing in 91?
  • From this psalm, what early warning signs can we see that might indicate we are not “blindly faithful to God?”
  • What type of satisfaction is the psalmist describing?
  • How would you translate verse 9 to a child?
  • When you think about being protected by angels, what imagery goes through your mind?

 

Mark 10:35-45
35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” 36 “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. 37 They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” 38 “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” 39 “We can,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, 40 but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.” 41 When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. 42 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Background 4

There are several characteristics that make the Gospel of Mark unique. Too often, these special characteristics are overlooked because Mark is read in light of the other synoptic gospels (Matthew and Luke), or John, or even the letters of Paul.

  • Although still debated by some, the consensus among the majority of biblical scholars is that the Gospel of Mark was the first of the canonical Gospels to appear. Consequently, it served as a source for the authors of Matthew and Luke when they wrote their Gospels. Moreover, although the Gospel of Mark was probably not the first Christian text to be labeled as “gospel,” it is likely the first gospel to utilize a narrative structure (versus, for example, a “sayings” gospel).
  • The author of Mark places sharp emphasis on the humanity of Jesus. This is best seen perhaps with respect to Jesus’ suffering. In fact, the suffering of Jesus is the key to understanding Jesus’ true identity as the Messiah, Son of God, and Son of Man (see e.g., 8:31-33; ; and 10:33-34, et al.).
  • In Mark, faith is a gift of God; characters in the narrative either have it or they don’t. Furthermore, miracles do not lead to faith (compare the Gospel According to John), but rather, faith is required in order that miracles can take place (see e.g., 6:1-6).
  • Many readers of Mark have recognized for a long time the negative manner in which Mark portrays the disciples (including the authors of Matthew and Luke who “corrected” Mark’s treatment in various ways). The disciples in Mark come across as dimwitted, misguided, and selfish, rather than as Jesus’ privileged associates and great apostles of the church. There are a number of ways to interpret this. For instance, perhaps Mark meant to depict them as “fallible followers” and thus give his readers hope when they struggle to understand and follow Jesus. On the other hand, the author of Mark may well have had an axe to grind with the leaders of the church in his day.
  • Readers of Mark have also noticed Jesus’ frequent commands to silence and his efforts to hide his identity. This motif has often been referred to as the “Messianic secret.” Whether it is a historical representation or a literary construction of the author is a matter of debate. Regardless of which position one takes, however, the theme poses interesting challenges for interpretation. One important outcome of the Messianic secret in Mark is that it allows for a provocative use of irony on the part of the author. Since the reader does, in fact, know who Jesus really is, she/he can immediately grasp the ironic twist when, for instance, Jesus is identified on the cross as the “King of the Jews.”

Biblical Truths 5

The disciples wanted honor and power

Jesus and his disciples were now approaching Jerusalem. Two apostles, James and John, who were brothers, asked Jesus a question:

When Jesus began to rule his kingdom, could they sit one on each side of him, as an honor? James and John thought that a kingdom would begin on earth immediately. [The kingdom that Jesus spoke about is God’s kingdom. Everyone who loves God belongs to his kingdom. But God’s kingdom is not yet complete.] The apostles wanted power for themselves. It was like a request for an important job in government.

There is some evidence that these brothers may have been cousins of Jesus. So they asked Jesus to keep important jobs in the family. This happens often in the world today. Notice what the request means. They wanted great honor and power for themselves. They did not ask to be servants in the kingdom. They did not ask Jesus to use them. They asked for honor and power.

The other disciples’ reaction

The other apostles were very angry. They also wanted these jobs! The apostles all had selfish ambitions. They thought, ‘What is there for me in all this?’ This was a struggle for power. So, they asked, ‘Who would be greatest?’ (See Matthew 18:1-3, Matthew 19:27-30, especially verse 27.)

The brothers did not really understand their request. Jesus told them this. They did not understand until after the resurrection who Jesus really was. Jesus is God. Also, Jesus would suffer very much before he could rule in his kingdom. The brothers did not understand this. Jesus spoke about it. He asked the brothers if they could suffer with him. The brothers bravely declared that they could! Jesus then replied:

Mark 10:39, 40  ‘You will drink the cup that I drink. You can have the same baptism as I have. But I do not choose who sits at my right or left. God chooses the people who will receive these honors.
Power in God’s kingdom

Jesus then made another statement. This shows that the Kingdom of God is far better than any kingdom on earth.

Mark 10:42-44 Jesus called the disciples together. He said, ‘You know this. The rulers of the Gentiles [Gentiles are people who are not Jews] have great power. Their important officials give many orders to people. You must not behave like that. Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant. Whoever wants to be important must be a slave of all.’

In kingdoms on earth, power is usually a bad thing. There are many beautiful great houses in my country. The people who built them were often very poor. Rich people forced them to work very hard, without much payment. We can still see that this happens today, across the world. It happens when some people have power over other people. We even see this problem in the church. In the Bible, the apostles had wrong ambitions, until Jesus died on the cross. This is not what Christ teaches. He teaches that in the Kingdom of God our ambition should be to serve other people. We should not try to become the person who gives orders. Our ambition should not be to rule other people. Our ambition should be to help them to know God. This would bless them, and help them to serve other people. (Of course, we should still have leaders. But the leaders should be servants of other people. They should help other people.)
Jesus came to serve

Lastly, Jesus made one other statement. This showed how he himself had come to serve.

Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man [Jesus] did not come so that other people would serve him. He came to serve other people. He came to die, and to rescue people from the results of their sin.
Here is something wonderful. Jesus is the son of God, and his home is with God, in heaven. But he left his home in heaven. He came into this world, which he had made. He was born in our world, and he had a humble birth. His family was poor. His birth was in a shed for animals. He did not come to rule over us, like a proud man. He came to serve. He came to cure sick and blind people. He came to tell people the good news from God. But especially, he came ‘to give his life’. Here is another wonderful thing. He came not so much to live, but to die. He came ‘to die, to rescue people from the results of their sin’. He came to die on the cross for our sins, so that God might forgive us. Then God can give us eternal life.

John 3:16 ‘For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son. Whoever believes in him shall not die, but shall have eternal life.’

Christian leadership

This is the kind of leadership which Jesus shows us. He wants us to have leaders like that. And he wants us to be leaders like that. These ideas are very different from the ideas that the apostles had! Let us remember that Jesus taught this lesson to apostles. He was not teaching other people. He wanted his disciples to be humble. Jesus patiently repeated the lesson several times before he died on the cross. How much Christian people need to learn this lesson! There are many jobs which somebody must do. We need to be ready to do some of them. We need to be ready to serve other people, and not merely to give orders. If it is best for the church, we need to be ready to give up our Christian job. To help the church, we need to be ready to do something else. If we all lived as real Christians, we would live like Jesus. He did not come to order other people about, but to serve them. He lived his life for other people. He even died for other people.

Items for Discussion

  • How do you reconcile your thoughts around what your role may be in the Christian Church?
  • Who in your mind is a great leader?
  • Can you think of a great leader that you have personally known as a friend?
  • In a church that you were a member of?
  • So of the great leaders you have known, why were they great?
  • Is it bad to want honor and power?
  • When does wanting honor and power cross the line and become a deterrent to your faith walk?

Discussion Challenge

  • In a society created on the adoration of honor and power, how to you raise children so they have the proper sense of Christian Leadership that Christ was talking about?
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