Various Studies Using Describe-It-Yourself Cards
Sets of 21+ Describe-It-Yourself cards are used in small-group, youth group, or home school Bible studies and games. In each study, participants (individuals or teams) take turns describing an event, person, or passage in line with cards that are drawn randomly. One game point is awarded for each valid point that is made in a limited time period. See the studies below for examples of valid points.
GAME / STUDY STEPS: 1.) First, read the passage. 2.) Second, the leader demonstrates how game points can be earned. 3.) If the group is mostly children or beginners, some of the more difficult cards should be removed from the set from the beginning. 4.) Teams may be formed to help beginners. 5.) Teams or individual players take turns drawing a card and speaking about how it is appropriate or not. (Sometimes it is partly right and partly wrong.) 6.) One minute is often long enough to make points, but beginners can be allowed more time. 7.) The leader may give hints to help beginners.
How is Mark's introduction FAST PACED? 1.) The beginning of the Lord's ministry is found in Mark 1:15, just 15 verses from the beginning. In contract to this, in order to reach this point in Matthew, you would need to read through chapters one, two, and three, and all the way up to Matthew 4:12. 2.) So it is as if Mark took a shortcut. 3.) The same could be said in contrast to the beginning of Luke's Gospel.
How is Mark's introduction WELL MARKED? 1.) There is a clear title in verse one. Like many titles there is no verb included. It probably refers to the entire Gospel. 2.) Various terms, such as "it came to pass" and "immediately," show transition and progress within the first 15 verses. 3.) It is difficult to decide where Mark's introduction ends, however. Perhaps the calling of the first disciples in 1:16-20 should be included as well.
Why does Mark's introduction seem to be MISSING SOME THINGS? 1.) Obviously, his target audience was different from Matthew's. Since there is no genealogy of Jesus included, he apparently was not aiming primarily at scholarly Jewish readers. 2.) Yet, Mark included Old Testament prophecies regarding the ministry of John the Baptist (1:2-3). So he was not ignorant of or rejecting the Hebrew Scriptures. 3.) Mark's Gospel, including his introduction, is very active and was probably aimed at active people rather than scholarly skeptics. Because of various Latin words in Mark, many believe he was aiming at Roman readers. Certainly, many Romans were action oriented, but so too were some Jewish people, especially those outside of scholarly circles in Jerusalem. Peter, who probably helped Mark write the Second Gospel, had an active personality.
How is Mark's introduction SOMEWHAT WILD? 1.) The wilderness is mentioned three times (1:4, 12, 13). 2.) In addition, John ate wild honey (Mk. 1:6, Mat. 3:4), and Jesus was with wild animals (Mk. 1:13). Only Mark mentions the wild beasts. 3.) More importantly, these things help show that there was an intentional wildness or outside-of-Jerusalem aspect to the gospel ministry from the beginning. This is more clearly seen in Mark than in Matthew and Luke, although it is seen in Luke 1:80 as well.
How is Jesus' baptism in Mark 1:9-11 TRINITARIAN? 1.) The obvious answer is that it is trinitarian because all three persons of the trinity are present. 2.) Mark included the trinitarian aspect of the scene but omitted the give and take between Jesus and John about who should baptize whom (Mat. 3:14-15). There was no shortcutting this foundational doctrine, and the streamlining was done very carefully.
How is there a special STRESS ON SATAN in Mark's version of the temptation? 1.) By omitting the details about the three-fold temptation found in Matthew and Luke, Mark put more stress on what he did report. Satan stands out in Mark 1:12-13 because the various kinds of sin do not. 2.) This is in line with Mark's stress on Jesus' power over demons. The first miracle in Mark (in 1:21-28) is part of this emphasis. Jesus is powerful.
How was Jesus PASSIVE AS WELL AS ACTIVE at his baptism? 1.) He was active in that he came to be baptized, but he was passive in submitting to such. 2.) Usually the Lord is active and powerful in Mark, since his miracles are stressed. The baptismal scene is exceptional. 3.) This was like his death, in that he allowed himself to be captured and crucified as well.
How is Mark 1:1-15 GOSPEL-CENTERED? 1.) The gospel is mentioned in Mark's title, in 1:1, and in the summary of Jesus' message in 1:15. 2.) This shows that Mark was probably originally written for and sent to believers in early churches who knew about the Lord's death and resurrection. Those who say the Gospels are "not for the church" overlook the fact that all four of them were written during the church age. The use of "gospel" in 1:1 and 1:15 helps show this. 3.) Mark's version of the great commission in 16:15 also contains this key term. The early church was gospel-centered. Although Mark is not used to celebrate Christmas, it was surely used by early Christians in evangelism as well as teaching.
How was the baptism of Jesus SOCIAL AS WELL AS PERSONAL? 1.) He was baptized as an individual, but it was a public ceremony. 2.) Moreover, by being baptized by John, Jesus associated himself with the gospel movement that had been going on for some time through John. 3.) This association or social aspect of Jesus' baptism was the focus, since he did not need to personally repent of any sin. 4.) Moreover, soon after, by calling his first disciples in 1:16-20, Jesus again showed that the gospel is not just personal.
. . . Although the church age did not begin until Acts chapter two, Jesus and John showed from the beginning that the gospel movement would grow and involve more and more disciples (Mark 1:1-20). Moreover, this would be distinct from the formalism and deadness that characterized much of the religion in Jerusalem.
REMEMBER to check out how to use the 21+ cards in a fun, educational Describe-It-Yourself game as explained at the top of this page.
How is the healing of the paralytic TONE-SETTING? 1.) It is one of the first miracles in Mark. 2.) There is a stress in it on Jesus' authority as God to forgive sin (2:5, 10). 3.) Though miracles are common in Mark, from the beginning the Gospel shows that Jesus was not just a miracle-working man or prophet like Elijah. Jesus could forgive sins as well, something which only God can do.
How was the healing UNUSUAL? 1.) Superficially, it was unusual in various ways, chief among them being the man's four friends caring him and lowered him into the house through an opening they made in the roof. 2.) More importantly, the man was not healed immediately. His sins were forgiven first so that the focus was placed upon Jesus' divine authority to forgive. 3.) The faith of the four friends is mentioned rather than the faith of the man himself (2:5).
How was the healing FAITH-BASED? 1.) Jesus would not have forgiven the man if he were not a believer. 2.) The Lord commended the faith of the friends because it was clearly seen by all through their extraordinary efforts. The paralytic was of course passive, but that does not mean that he lacked faith. It was just more difficult for those present to see his faith. Jesus saw it however.
How is Mark 2:1-11 EVANGELISTIC? 1.) Sinful living and repentance are not stressed, but even the man who could not move was a sinner. 2.) A central issue in all evangelism is showing who Jesus is, and this miracle and passage clearly show that Jesus is God. 3.) The controversy in 2:7 can be used to show that early Jewish believers had good reason to believe that Jesus is God from the beginning. 4.) The fact that there were many witnesses present and that the miracle is so memorable in form can be stressed effectively. This is not a made up story, and Mark was probably written fairly soon after the actual events. 5.) The uniqueness of Jesus and God's nearness to us through him should be stressed, as seen in 2:12. 6.) The opening of the roof can be used to illustrate, the all-surpassing importance of seeking God through Christ. Worrying about the roof repair, is like worrying about Zacchaeus falling out of the tree in Luke 19:4. Don't let worldly worries keep you from the Savior! 7.) Finally, the man's total inability as a paralytic to save himself can be used to speak against the false belief in salvation through good works.
How was the healing of the paralytic LIFE-CHANGING? 1.) Obviously, it must have been so, but the passage does not say much about this. He was able to walk and carry his bed (2:12), but nothing more is said. 2.) This is because the main focus was on the Lord Jesus rather than the man. Believing in Jesus as the only One who can forgive sins is truly life-changing.
REMEMBER to check out how to use the 21+ cards in a fun, educational Describe-It-Yourself game as explained at the top of this page.
Why was the small boat NECESSARY? 1.) The multitude who had came from many places seeking healing was so great that they were dangerous. Jesus (and others) could have been crushed because of their numbers and zeal. 2.) The small boat was necessary as a means of avoiding this physical danger. Of course, the Lord could have walked on water to escape, but he did not wish to display his power that way before such a crowd. 3.) Ultimately, the main reason the small boat was necessary was to preserve Jesus' life so that he could be crucified rather than crushed. This happed llater in God's time as predicted by Isaiah and other prophets.
How was the use of the small boat UNUSUAL? 1.) It is only mentioned in Mark's Gospel. Perhaps this is because the boat belonged to Peter and because he helped write the Gospel of Mark. 2.) It does not say that the boat was actually used, though it probably was. Perhaps this is because doing so would have seemed to depict Jesus as fearful which, of course, he was not.
Was Jesus' command that a small boat be prepared really FAITH-BASED? 1.) It was more a matter of the Lord foreseeing the need. It showed his foreknowledge and faithfulness to the Father's plan rather than faith. 2.) The command was given calmly and confidently. So it was not fear based. Though he may have appeared to have been evasive to some extent, he was moving forward confidently toward the cross. In ordinary believers, confidence is a sign of faith, but in the Lord it showed his faithfulness and foreknowledge.
How was providing the small boat SERVING GOD? 1.) Apparently the disciples (especially Peter and the other former fishermen) did exactly as they were told. Obedience is always a characteristic of godly service. 2.) Providing the boat for use on the lake was somewhat like hospitality and the provision of food at home. Domestic hospitality is often associated with women, but here men served the Lord through physical means. 3.) The main focus in the passage, however, is on Jesus. He was going to the cross as the Servant of the Lord, and the small wooden boat helped him do so. The small boat was a big blessing!
REMEMBER to check out how to use the 21+ cards in a fun, educational Describe-It-Yourself game as explained at the top of this page.
Why was the parable of the growing seed NECESSARY? 1.) Like the other kingdom parables, it was corrective. Most of the Jews at the time expected the imperial kingdom of God to immediately appear on earth when the Messiah came. This, of course, did not happen. 2.) The growing seed parable's role was to compare the delayed kingdom to the normal growing season which is on God's schedule and always takes time.
How is the growing seed parable SOMEWHAT LIKE THE SOWER / SOILS PARABLE? 1.) Both parables are about the kingdom of God, which is the present church age and the ending thereof. 2.) Also both parables are agricultural, in line with the fact that Jesus did not come as a military leader the first time. 3.) The main difference between the two is that the parable of the sower is focused on the various kinds of soil or hearers, whereas the parable of the growing seed is mainly about the seed and God. Human responsibility is stressed in (4:1-20) and after (4:24-25) the soils parable but not in most of the parable of the growing seed (4:26-28).
How is the growing seed parable MOSTLY POSITIVE? 1.) The spontaneous growth in 4:28 is, of course, positive, representing God working throughout the church age. 2.) The positive growth aspect of the parable is much like that in the parable of the mustard seed and shrub (4:30-32). 3.) The final verse of the growing seed parable (4:29) is somewhat negative, however, since the sickle probably represents judgment as well as harvest. 4.) The parable of the tares (Mat. 13:24-30, 36-43) is much more negative, since the work of the evil one is stressed.
Why is the parable of the tares missing in Mark? 1.) We do not know why, but its absence helps make Mark shorter than Matthew. 2.) Perhaps the Holy Spirit led Mark to omit the parable of the tares and include the growing seed parable instead in order to make Mark more positive and encouraging. 3.) The CASTING OUT of demons is mentioned more frequently in Mark than in the other Gospels, and the LEAVING OUT of the parable of the tares and the substitution of the growing seed parable fits well with this. Jesus' powerful work in the present age is thereby stressed rather than Satan's.
How was the calming of the sea GREAT? There are several reasons. 1.) Since the Sea of Galilee is often rough the completeness of the calm is amazing. 2.) Also it was an instantaneous calm, rather than a gradual calming down like with ordinary storms. 3.) There was a great contrast between the great storm one moment and a great calm the next.
Why was the miracle so SHOCKING to the disciples? 1.) The greatness of the calm was, of course, shocking, but there was a bigger reason. 2.) They apparently did not expect the Lord to command the sea and the wind as only the Creator could do (4:41). Rather, they probably expected him to pray as a prophet might have done.
Was the calming of the sea TRINITARIAN? 1.) Since Jesus did not pray first, the miracle did not involve God the Father in an obvious way. So the answer seems to be no. 2.) The focus of the miracle is upon Jesus as the Creator. 3.) The calming of the sea was more TRIANGULAR than trinitarian. There are three main parties, the Lord Jesus, the disciples, and the storm, and, of course, there are three main points as well.
Why was this great miracle NECESSARY? 1.) Jesus took necessary protective action. 2.) Moreover, he corrected the disciples. He did not rebuke them for asking for him to act, however. Rather they were rebuked for the greatness of their fear and the unbelief that they showed thereby. 3.) Thus, he counseled them and showed that the One who was with them was greater than the greatest storm. Soon after in chapter five, he showed that HE is greater than a legion of demonic forces. Jesus' great power over evil is stressed in Mark's Gospel.
How was Jesus' ministry on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee MISSIONARY? 1.) Nearly every point on the summary chart below describes missionary activity. 2.) Obviously Jesus' ministry in the country of the Gadarenes was cross-cultural to some extent since observant Jews did not keep pigs. 3.) Also it was obviously evangelistic since the demon possessed man (two men in Mat. 8:28) became a follower of Jesus (5:18-20).
How was Jesus' ministry on the eastern shore OPEN-ENDED? 1.) In a way, it was not, since the people selfishly begged Jesus to leave (5:17). 2.) However, the man who was set free from the demons continued the ministry after Jesus and the disciples left. Thus he was like a national evangelists who continues the work which a foreign missionary began.
What was the mission in Mark 5:1-20 NOT? 1.) First, Mark's account of it is quite long rather than short. This is in line with Mark's emphasis on Jesus' authority over the evil one. 2.) Second, the scene on the lake shore was not in a synagogue. So it is not about preaching or teaching, though the authority of the Lord's words is still stressed. 3.) Third, though the man was obviously grateful, the general lack of joy and gratitude among the people stands out. 4.) Finally, some may say that the mission was unsuccessful since only the demoniac seemed to respond positively. This, however, wrongly ignores the man's ongoing ministry (5:18-20). It is difficult to correctly measure ministry results, though it is fairly easy to count pigs (5:13).
How was the Lord Jesus an OUTSIDER? 1.) Those who rejected him considered him to be an outsider, but 2.) as the Creator he certainly was not. 3.) Many of the people were probably Jewish. So their reasons for rejecting Jesus were probably not racial. 4.) The people, then and today as well, like to continue their sinful ways. Therefore tragically the true and living God has always been treated like an outsider by unbelievers. Those who represent him and minister his word are, of course, as well.
Why was the trip to the eastern shore NEEDED? 1.) Obviously, everyone in the area and beyond needed to know who Jesus is, and 2.) the need for evangelism on the eastern shore seemed to have been greater than on the western one. Missionaries often talk about "the need" because some areas and kinds of ministry have always been neglected compared to others. 3.) The initial need of the man is stressed because God cares for individuals. It is also stressed to show how great Jesus' authority is.
This study is somewhat different from the others, since the Describe-It-Yourself cards on the worksheet below contain blank lines. Half of them are already filled in, but the rest are to be completed by those doing the study. Suggested possible answers are listed at the bottom of the worksheet, but it is good to try to fill in the blanks before considering these suggestions.
Was the woman ASHAMED as well as SHY? It is probably good that we do not know her exact condition, such as the source of the bleeding, since it may have been too personal to mention. So she is described with care and modesty. Regardless of her exact condition, she would have been ceremonially unclean. So the Lord dealt with her shame within society by not allowing her go away secretly. His clear public declaration of her healing in 5:34 would have restored her socially since she no longer was "unclean." Thus she was truly free to start a new life.
What about the woman's faith? The Lord said that she was healed because of her faith. So it must have been genuine. However, at first her belief was probably primarily focused on Jesus' power to heal. At the end, however, she would have appreciated the Lord's knowledge and graciousness as well. Although this story, is in Mark's top chapter on miracles, it is important to see the Lord Jesus more personally than just as a miracle worker.
How was Herod Antipas WEAK? 1.) His most obvious weakness was regarding women, since at the end he allowed Herodias to have her way regarding John the Baptist. He was defeated by Herodias and her dancing daughter. 2.) Ultimate blame for this goes back to Antipas' lack of self-control. The double-minded king may have enjoyed listening to John (6:20), but he also enjoyed sensual dancing (6:22-23). 3.) Herod was also weak because he was afraid of losing face before local Galilean leaders. They too were more important to him than God, since he was politically motivated rather than a true believer.
Why was Herod CONFUSED? 1.) Having wrongfully executed John, Herod was laden with guilt and could not think clearly about the miracles of Jesus and the apostles that he had begun to hear about (6:14-16, 30). 2.) His guilt led him to wrongly attribute these miracles to an imaginary resurrected John the Baptist.
How was Herod HYPOCRITICAL? 1.) Outwardly the king was not so bad. For instance, before being tricked by Herodias, he protected John and gladly listen to him, even obeying the prophet's teaching to some extent. (In 6:20, the Majority Text clearly shows this, but the Critical Text does not.) 2.) Herod's lack of genuine faith eventually became clear, when he chose to execute John rather than do what was right before the Lord. 3.) The essence of Herod's hypocrisy is seen in his partial obedience, which revealed that he was an unstable, double-minded man. 4.) His hypocrisy is indicated in the diagram below by the difference in color between the outer, white cards and the inner, brown ones.
Why is there so much about WEAK King Herod in Mark? 1.) The Second Gospel encourages readers to be strong in the Lord by showing through Herod and others that true, inner strength comes through faith and trust in Jesus. 2.) Nearly everyone believes that Peter helped write this Gospel, and doing so is one of the ways that he helped strengthen his brethren in line with the prophecy in Luke 22:32. 3.) Various things, such as the use of the Latin term for executioner in 6:27, indicate that Mark's Gospel was aimed at Roman readers who highly valued strength and strong leadership. 4.) There seems to be deliberate contrast between cowardly King Herod and fearless John the Baptist in this passage. So the bottom line may be that we should be like John rather than like Herod. It is not just a historical report of what happened.
How was Jesus' sighing in 7:34 SPECIAL? 1.) He looked up to heaven and sighed. So his sighing was prayerful rather than just breathing deeply. The verb has to do with groaning as seen in Romans 8:22, 8:26, and 2 Cor. 5:1-4. 2.) Jesus' signing or groaning was also special in Mark 7:34 and 8:12 because it is not mentioned in parallel passages in Matthew chapter 15. The sighing seems to be stressed in Mark along with the Second Gospel's parallel stress of Jesus' miracles and busy schedule.
How may Jesus' sighing have been MULTIFACETED? 1.) The reason for his groaning is not directly stated. Therefore there may have been more than one reason. 2.) It may have involved physical exhaustion. 3.) This may have included feeling painfully constrained and limited in this ministry on earth because of being in the flesh without a glorified body (2 Cor. 5:1-4). 4.) It may have involved sorrow because of the lack of spiritual understanding or sin on the part of the great multitude who came to be healed (Mat. 15:31). 5.) Whatever reasons, the Lord apparently spoke to the Father about them. Because of their relationship within the Trinity, He could do this in an instant.
Why was Jesus' prayerful sighing kept PARTLY HIDDEN FROM US? 1.) Mark's Gospel is often blunt and without detailed explanations, but this is thought-provoking and good for us. 2.) Moreover, since we are mere mortals, we would be overwhelmed by all that is probably involved.
Why was Jesus' sighing or groaning NECESSARY? 1.) Again, we do not know the reason(s), but we do know that he did not groan and pray in vain. It was proper for him to sigh prayerfully as he did. 2.) Since the Lord was not selfish, his sighing probably had to do with others.
. . . Application: we too should care for others and the ministry that God has given us rather than groaning or sighing for our own sake. It is ok for us to sigh, IF we look upward and outward as we do so.
How was the healing of the blind man at Bethsaida UNIQUE? 1.) It is the only miracle that Jesus performed that involved two steps. 2.) After the first step, the formerly blind man was able to "see" but not clearly. After the second step, he was able to see perfectly. 3.) Moreover, this miracle is only found in Mark's Gospel. In fact, this visit to Peter's hometown is not even mentioned by the others. This is another indications that the main human source of Mark's account was Peter.
Why is the two-step healing PROBABLY NOT FOCUSED ON DIFFICULTY? 1.) Superficially, it may sound like this blind man was a particularly difficult case, since two steps were used. 2.) However, no miracle was difficult for the Lord Jesus. He could have completely healed the man instantly, if he had chosen to do so.
Why was this miracle NOT DONE ALL AT ONCE? 1.) We do not know the reason. 2.) However, it may be because this miracle is closely connected to Peter's confession of faith which follows in 8:27-30 and the first direct prediction of rejection and the cross in 8:31-37. The disciples assumed that the coming of the Messiah would lead immediately to his reign over Israel and all nations. This was not to be the case, because there was to be a delay. 3.) In the parallel confession passage in Matthew chapter 16, the Lord spoke about the building of his church. The church age is not mentioned in Mark, but this two-stage miracle may imply that God's kingdom on earth would not come immediately, all at once, as most anticipated.
How was the two-stage miracle LIKE A PROMISE? 1.) Although the miracle was not all performed at once, it was not left half done either, for that would have been contrary to God's character. 2.) The man being able to see to some extent after the first stage was like a promise that the Lord would restore his sight fully. 3.) Likewise, the first coming of Christ which was wonderful and eye-opening in many ways will be followed at his second coming by his full revelation (1 Cor. 13:12, 1 Pet. 1:8-9). 4.) So let us stop thinking negatively about this supposedly difficult miracle. It is encouraging!
How is the passage on the demoniac son in Mark DARK? 1.) It is not calm, cultured, gentle, joyful, or thankful. Notice that nothing is said about the father or son being thankful. 2.) Neither is it majestic or lofty like the transfiguration scene that precedes it (Mk. 9:1-13). There is no voice from heaven. 3.) There was also confusion and disorder because of the demon, the disciples' failure, and the critical crowd.
Is there an emphasis in Mark 9:14-29 on the FAILURE of the disciples? Yes! 1.) The passage begins with this, and 2.) ends with the Lord teaching the disciples how to avoid failure in the future through prayer. 3.) If more had been reported about the father and son after the miracle, it would have distracted from the focus on the disciples and their failed attempt to serve the Lord. Thus, the passage is largely for believers about their service. 4.) By the way, Peter was NOT one of those who failed this time. He had been absent, up on the Mount of Transfiguration at the time.
How is the passage EVANGELISTIC? 1.) It helps show that Jesus is the only One who has absolute power over the forces of evil. This is emphasized throughout Mark in which demonic activity is mentioned more often than in the other Gosples. 2.) So Mark's Gospel was probably aimed at people who lived in rough areas spiritually speaking, where God's word was little know and demonic activity was common. This undoubtedly included Rome and the Romans.
Why is this passage CONTROVERSIAL? 1.) The condition of the son sounds somewhat like epilepsy (9:18, 22). Yet it clearly says that it was due to being demon possessed (9:17, 25). 2.) Some claim that Jesus and Mark went along with ancient false beliefs in evil spirits. 3.) This is false for a number of reasons, the most basic being that this view undermines biblical inerrancy. Also, in other passages, such as Mk. 7:31-37, there are healings in which an evil spirit is not mentioned. The cases are thus differentiated.
What does the passage teach ABOUT PRAYER? 1.) The concluding verse (9:29) makes the key point that persistent intercessory prayer over a period of time is often required. The graphic below includes this point, but stresses that the main thing in intercession is always the will of God. Belief is also required in a secondary way (9:23). In this case, it was God's will to heal the demoniac and set him free, but time was involved. The disciples needlessly failed because they rushed to act without praying. Thus they failed to acknowledge their dependance upon God the Father through God the Son.Click for full-size 3D Graphic
Why is story of the healing of Bartimaeus DISORDERLY? 1.) Obviously it was because the blind beggar did not quitely sit and let Jesus and the multitude pass him by (10:47). 2.) Moreover, he did not let those around him intimidate him into silence (10:48). He was loud and disruptive, of course, but he realized that this was his once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be healed. 3.) So being disruptive and disorderly is sometimes a good thing, like when the four friends removed the roof of the house in order to bring their paralytic friend to Jesus in chapter two.
How is story of Bartimaeus ENCOURAGING? 1.) Again, obviously, the story encourages us to be bold in prayer like Bartimaeus was in asking the Son of David for mercy (10:47. 48). 2.) There is also encouragement here to ask God for the right thing. Some may have thought that the beggar would ask Jesus for money, since that is what he usually asked of others. This may be one reason why they tried to silence him and why Jesus asked Bartimaeus what he wanted (10:51). 4.) Since the blind man asked to be healed rather than for money, it is incorrect to think of him as a loud beggar. He was loud, of course, but asking Jesus for healing was praying rather than begging.
How is the story of Bartimaeus EXTRA ENCOURAGING in Mark? 1.) It is encouraging in Mathew and Luke as well, of course, but in Mark's Gospel it is told in an extra lively, personal, and interesting way. 2.) Only Mark names the beggar and tells us that he jumped up and cast aside his cloak when he came to Jesus. This is easy to visualize and remember, and is an indication that someone who was present at the time told the story to Mark. That was probably Peter, who himself was lively (John 21:7). 3.) In addition, the people told Bartimaeus to "take courage" because Jesus was calling him (10:49). Jesus had overruled their earlier intimidation.
How is the story of Bartimaeus EVANGELISTIC? 1.) It shows that Jesus cares for individuals. 2.) It shows that we should not allow intimidation or persecution to keep us from the Lord. 3.) The story also shows that the opportunity to meet the Lord does not last forever. 4.) Importantly, the Lord said that the man was saved (i.e. healed) because of his faith. 5.) Finally, the various lively, personal details in Mark's account help show that the story is authentic.
How is Jesus teaching on prayer in 11:22-26 BALANCED? 1.) In Mark 11:22-24, Jesus encouraged his disciples to pray, but in 11:25-26 he cautioned them about their prayers being hindered because of not forgiving others. 2.) His positive teaching in 11:22-24 was high like the Mount of Olives and the more negative teaching in 11:25-26 was low like the Dead Sea.
How is Jesus teaching in Mark 11:22-26 UNLIKE the contents of Matthew 21:22-23? 1.) Jesus' positive teaching in 11:23-24 is much like in Matthew 21:21-22. 2.) However, the warning given in Mark 11:25-26 in NOT found in Matthew 21:22-23. (It is in the Lord's Prayer and Matthew chapter six instead.) 3.) So the high-and-low balance regarding prayer in Mark chapter 11 is not found in Matthew chapter 21.
How is Jesus' teaching on prayer in Mark 11:22-26 LIKE THE LORD'S PRAYER? 1.) The practical, relational points about forgiving others are obviously similar. 2. Yet, the relationship between praying for the kingdom in the Lord's Prayer and praying for great things in line with Mark 11:22-24 is often overlooked. Praying for God's kingdom to come (Mat. 6:10) is NOT just asking God to bless his church. It is eschatological as well. The Lord's Prayer is not as placid and peaceful as many think.
When the Lord return to earth, great topological changes will take place. According to Zechariah 14:4, the Mount of Olives will be spit in two. So the moving of "this mountain" that Jesus spoke about in Mark 11:23 is probably NOT just figurative. -- Look closely at the photo of the Mount of Olives below. The many tour busses and graves that are seen today will not stay where that way forever. Change is coming!
Why was this teaching on prayer NECESSARY? 1.) The disciples apparently had not been praying boldly enough to God the Father previously. This was probably because Jesus was with them. 2.) The church age was about to begin, however, as illustrated by the drying up of the fig tree representing Israel mentioned in 11:20-21. 3.) So this teaching on prayer was necessary and timely because of great fast-approaching change. 4.) In addition, it has always been important to forgive and be on good terms with others so that our prayers are not hindered. (See 1 Peter 3:7.)
How were the Roman tax questions A TRAP? 1.) The Pharisees and the Herodians hoped that Jesus would say that it was contrary to the law of Moses for Jews to pay Roman taxes. That is why they praised him extensively first (12:14). 2.) If the Lord had answered as they hoped, they would have had something to charge him with before the Romans. 3.) This is somewhat like the trap that they set for him earlier in John 8:5.
How were the questions about the taxes NARROW? 1.) They were yes or no questions. Thus they were tricky and unfair because no third alternative was mentioned. 2.) The Lord's wonderful answer showed that there was a third alternative (12:17), which was in line with what Daniel, Jeremiah, and others did in the Old Testament and Peter commanded in 1 Peter 2:17.
Were the tax questions really EXTRABIBLICAL? 1.) Moses, of course, did not write about paying or not paying Roman taxes, because he lived long before the Roman era. 2.) However, through Joseph in Genesis, it was obvious from ancient times that working with a pagan government on financial matters was normally no problem. 3.) Later Daniel and Jeremiah make this even more clear, as did Paul in Romans chapter 13 as well. All of these things fit perfectly with the Lord's two-sides-of-the-same-coin like answer in Mark 12:17.
Why were the tax questions NOT ALL BAD? 1.) It was and still is good to think about the will of God. 2.) However, the big plus here was that the Lord demonstrating with his answer in 12:17—and those to the other questions that followed later in the chapter—that he fully understood the Scriptures. So all this Q&A was addition, three-fold proof that Jesus was truly the Messiah.
How were Jesus' questions in Mark 12:35-37 CORRECTIVE and NECESSARY? 1.) The scribe in 12:28-34 understood the core requirements of the law and was not far from the kingdom of God (12:34), but he did not know that Jesus was God. 2.) Using Psalm 110:1, Jesus showed that he, as the Messiah, was David's Lord (God) as well as David's descendent. The Jewish scholars (then and now) think of the Messiah as just a man. Psalm 110 shows otherwise.
How were Jesus' questions in 12:35-37 EVANGELISTIC? 1.) The good news is that God became a man—in the line of David as promised—in order to save mankind from sin. 2.) The questions in 12:35-37 are identity questions which show that Jesus the Messiah was and is not just a man. 3.) The questions and the quote from Psalm 110 were used to evangelize the Jewish scholars who were with Jesus in the temple. Sadly most of them did not believe (12:37-40). They instead rejected the Chief Cornerstone, as predicted in Psalm 118:22-23 (Mk. 12:10-12).
Were Jesus' questions in 12:35-37 AGAINST THE SCRIBES? 1.) The questions were corrective and evangelistic. So it may be an overstatement to say that they were "against" the religious leaders. 2.) The parable of the vineyard at the beginning of the chapter is much more clearly negative about them (12:12), and the final few verses of the chapter (12:38-40) are as well. The questions in 12:35-37 were though-provoking and gracious, as well as corrective and somewhat confrontational.
Why is Mark 12:35-37 often OVERLOOKED today? 1.) Most of us are not Jewish or Old Testament scholars. Therefore, most Christians today are not very interested in the fine points of Psalm 110 verse one. 2.) Most of us naturally find passages with dramatic action more interesting. That is why Mk. 2:5-12 is much better known than Mk. 12:35-37, even though the same point about Jesus' deity is made in both passages. 3.) To us, Psalm 110:1 seems a bit obscure. Yet, it was and still is a great witness to the Lord, Jesus. (Also see Mk. 14:62 and 16:19.) We should take the Scriptures more seriously.
How was or is Jesus' warning in Mark 13:14-23 CLIMACTIC? 1.) Chapter 13 is not the climax of Mark; the resurrection and the ministry of the apostles in chapter 16 is. 2.) However, chapter 13 is climactic in a prophetic sense. It describes what will happen before the second coming, after the church age. 3.) The second half of chapter 13, verses 24-37, is even more climactic than verses 14-23, since the end of the chapter is about the Lord's return itself.
How was Jesus warning in Mark 13:14-23 ABOUT THE FUTURE? 1.) The Lord said that his warning was primarily for those who would read it in the future (13:14). 2.) Aside from the destruction of the temple spoken of in verse two, none of the spectacular events in chapter 13 took place during the lifetime of the apostles. 2.) The wars, rumors of wars, earthquakes, and famines that the Lord predicted in verses seven and eight were to take place during the church age, becoming more frequent or intense as the end of the age draws near. 3.) The abomination of desolation in verse 14 an predicted in Daniel 9:27 will be the work of the Antichrist. This will require the existence of a new Jewish temple. The setting up of an image of the Antichrist in the temple will mark the beginning of the second half of the tribulation period.
Why is Jesus' warning in Mark 13:14-23 UNPOPULAR? 1.) People naturally do not like warnings because they are negative. The positive, compassionate aspects of this warning (13:17, 20) are often overlooked. 2.) Chapter 13 of Mark is not as popular as Matthew chapter 24—with those interested in Israel and prophecy—because it is shorter and less detailed. 3.) Since the focus in Mark 13 and Matthew 24 is upon Israel, the Jews, and future events, many Gentile Christians do not consider these chapters to be very important. This is a grave error which Paul spoke against in Romans 11:18-32. It leads to anti-Semitism.
How is Jesus' warning in Mark 13:14-23 PREMILLENNIAL? 1.) Those who wrongly believe the church has permanently replaced Israel as God's people ignore Romans chapter 11 and are amillennialists. The Roman Catholic Church has always been amillennial, and this helps explain why anti-Semitism has always been a problem in Europe. 2.) Those who believe in God's plan for the salvation of Jewish people as taught in Romans 11:18-32 are premillennialists. 3.) Jesus' warning to future Jewish readers in Mark 13:14-23 clearly shows that a believing Jewish remnant will escape from the Antichrist. So this is premillennial teaching.
How is Jesus' warning in Mark 13:14-23 ABOUT FLEEING and why is fleeing important? 1.) The main command in verses 14 and 15 is to flee. 2.) Fleeing immediately will be the only way that the believing Jewish remnant will escape from the Antichrist. 3.) Most of those Jews who fled from Nazi Gemany in the 1930's escaped from Hitler; millions of those who did not flee perished. This was a preview of what will happen again on an even larger scale during the Tribulation Period.
Are we Christians supposed to FLEE today as well? 1.) Believers should always be watchful and cautious regarding evil in the world. So it may be wise, for instance, to move to a new area or remove the children from the local school. 2.) However, Christians are also to be firm in their faith (1 Cor. 15:58) who stand fast like good soldiers (Eph. 6:10-18). 3.) In Acts, the apostles sometimes moved to new areas because of persecution, but they also sometimes stayed in place despite persecution. Like them, we should be both cautious and courageous, case by case.
Why does the Jewish Trial of Jesus in Mark 14:53-65 LACK CREDIBILITY? 1.) The most obvious reason that the judgement of the council against Jesus was suspect may be because the testimonies of those who spoke were inconsistent (14:55-59). 2.) Another obvious reason is because of the one-sided nature of the trial. 3.) Thirdly, the disorderly and violent behavior of some (14:65) undercut the credibility that the elite group might have had initially. 4.) Finally, there was a more basic problem. The possibility of Jesus being whom he claimed to be was never even considered! His many and widely known miracles were totally ignored. A few of his words were discussed, but his powerful deeds were not. The trial was limited in scope and superficial.
In what sense was the Jewish trial NOT ROMAN? 1.) Obviously, the members of the Sanhedrin counsel were Jews rather than Romans (14:53). 2.) The important difference, however, was that the subject of inquiry was different. Romans, including Pilate, cared about deeds. If Caiaphas and the other Jewish religious leaders had been intellectually honesty about Jesus many miracles, they would not have rushed to reach the collective decision that they did (14:63-64).
How was the Jewish trial PROVIDENTIAL? 1.) It was, of course, God's will for the Lord Jesus to die for our sins and be raised again from the dead on the third day. 2.) Therefore, it is important to notice that Jesus' misunderstood prediction of resurrection involving "this temple" (John 2:19) was mentioned during the trial (14:58). The resurrection was the ultimate proof that the Jewish trial was unjust, ungodly, and scandalous.
Why is the contrast between the Jewish and the Roman trials IMPORTANT? 1.) Many believe that the Gospel of Mark was aimed at a Roman audience, and Roman readers would have been horrified by the limited and superficial nature of the Jewish trial. 2.) Moreover, they would have been impressed by Jesus' power which is mentioned in 14:62 and is demonstrated throughout Mark's Gospel. (See 2:5-12.) 3.) For people who were very interested in power, the one-sided Jewish focus on words only was unthinkable (16:19-20).
How is the death of Jesus in Mark's account especially VISUAL and VIVID? 1.) Mark's account of the Savior's death does not include most things that he said from the cross. Therefore the focus is more on what he did, especially how he died, in an active and powerful manner rather than because of weakness (15:37). 2.) Likewise, not mentioning the powerful earthquake and the related events reported in Mat. 27:51-53 puts the focus more on Jesus Himself. 3.) In addition, Jesus being watched is mentioned three times (15:36, 39, 40).
The CONCISE nature of Mark's account is obvious, but how is it also THEOLOGICAL? 1.) In Mark, emphasis is shown through what is not omitted. Chief among such things regarding the Lord's death is the veil of the temple being torn from top to bottom. The theological significance of this is stressed by its inclusion. 2.) The splitting rocks and earthquake in Mat. 27:51 may be significant theologically as well, since they can be associated with Moses, but including them might have been too much for Gentile readers to absorb. 3.) The torn veil shows that the way to God is now open. God's nearness and openness to us because of the forgiveness of sin through Christ's blood of the new covenant is stressed.
How was and is Jesus' death in Mark EVANGELISTIC? 1.) For early Jewish readers, the closely associated tearing of the inner veil of the temple would have been impressive and interpreted like in the Book of Hebrews. 2.) For Roman readers, the unique strength that Jesus showed as he died would have been impressive, especially since it was closely observed and applied by the Roman centurion (15:39). 3.) For people today, both of these points can be made to form a balanced gospel message which is associated with Day of Atonement in the Old Testament AND the testimonies of knowledgable observers in the New Testament.
How was the Jesus' death PARADOXICAL? 1.) When he cried out about being forsaken in 15:34, Jesus seemed very much alone. (This was undoubtedly when he was bearing our sins.) However, the strength that Jesus showed at the end in 15:37 indicates that he was no longer alone. (His words at this point which are recorded in Luke 23:46 show conclusively that he was no longer forsaken by the Father.) 2.) Moreover, the Lord's death was "the end" in a way, yet it was "not the end." There is life after death for all God's children, and this was especially so through the resurrection for the Son of God.
Why is the ending of Mark's Gospel CONTROVERSIAL? 1.) The basic problem is that the last 12 verses (16:9-20) are not well understood. 2.) So notes in many Bibles falsely claim that these verses were added later by someone other than Mark. If this were true, either the real ending of Mark has been lost, which is highly unlikely, or verse eight is the original final verse and the Second Gospel ends with the women fleeing from the tomb in terror. What a negative ending that would be! 3.) Nearly all Greek manuscripts, hundreds of them, contain verses nine through 20, and only three ancient manuscripts end at verse eight.
How and why is Mark chapter 16 FULL OF CONTRAST? 1.) The summary diagram below shows that the tone and emphasis are purposefully different in the two parts of the chapter for the benefit of Mark's readers, many of whom were probably Romans. Overcoming fear through faith and the Lord's power seems to be the goal. 2.) Weakness and fear are stressed in the first part of the chapter and God's powerful working is stressed in the second half. 3.) Only Mark mentions the physical need for someone to roll away the stone for the women (16:3). Likewise, only Mark mentions their great fear and FLEEING (16:8). Roman soldiers would not have been impressed with this weakness and cowardice.
4.) However, in the second part of the chapter (16:9-20), Mark stresses Jesus' power, including over demons (16:9, 17). This is in line with the emphasis on the Lord's victories over evil spirits throughout Mark. The first miracle mentioned is the casting out of a demon in 1:21-28. Romans would have appreciated this emphasis 5.) Moreover, the stern rebuke that Jesus gave to the apostles for unbelief (16:14) would have been appreciated by a Roman military leader, since firm belief and steadfastness in battle go together. 6.) Even the reference to baptism in 16:16 fits well, because new believers were afraid of the persecution that came when one was baptized. This fear had to be overcome by faith, much like a Roman soldier needed to overcome his fear as a battle begins.
Thus seeing and appreciating the contrast—weakness vs. strength—seems to be the key to Mark chapter 16.
Why isn't Mark chapter 16 JOYFUL like Luke chapter 24? 1.) In a way, the final chapter in Mark is joyful, because victory over evil brings joy even if rejoicing is not directly mentioned. 2.) However, the stress in Mark seems to be on the seriousness of the ongoing struggle against evil. So this is not a peaceful chapter.
How is Mark chapter 16 ABOUT THE APOSTLES? 1.) Jesus predicted what the Apostles would do (16:17-18), and how God would confirm their words in special ways (16:20). 2.) The Lord did NOT predict that special signs would continue to be common throughout the church age.
. . . Key chapters on the Christian life and ministry in the New Testament, such as Roman's chapter 12 and Second Timothy chapter four, do NOT call for or mention speaking in tongues and performing miracles like the Apostles. Nevertheless, Timothy was to be strong as he served (2 Tim. 2:1-4), and so are we.
© 2021 by Jon F. Mahar, Hakusan City, Japan