More Lessons in Discipleship
(Mark 4 & 6, Matthew 12)
Introduction: Where do you look when you are driving a car? The worst thing is looking down while fiddling inside the car with your radio, cell phone or navigation system. However, just keeping your eye on the road is not good enough. You need to be looking far enough down the road to anticipate problems. Is discipleship like driving? Does it matter where we have our focus? Let's jump into our study of the Bible and find out!
- Sudden Storms
- Read Mark 4:35-36. What do you think the text means when it tells us the disciples took Jesus "just as He was?" (Apparently, getting into the boat was not like getting into your car. Normally, some preparation is made. Whether this is a reference to a floatation device, food, or clothing, the text does not say. We know some preparation is lacking.)
- Read Mark 4:37. One commentary (Barnes' Notes) includes a first hand report of the storms that hit Galilee. The lake is 600 feet below sea level. The ground around it is filled with ravines and gorges that lead up to much higher ground. These act like funnels for the cold wind coming down from the heights to the head of the lake. The result is sudden and violent storms. Were the disciples used to these storms? Were they experts in boat-handling on the lake? (Surely they must have been since many were commercial fishermen.)
- What do the words "it was nearly swamped" mean? (So much water had gotten into the boat that it was about to sink.)
- What parallels do you see between being in a boat and the Christian life? (I love the water. I love to sail. One of my favorite things in life is to sail catamarans. When the wind is blowing you use your skill and strength to set the sails to make the maximum speed. The boat skips over and through the waves. Although this is a pretty safe sport, you can drown. I think of water as being like the world. There is a thrill in it, but we think that by our skill we can handle it without being drowned. Unfortunately, that approach to life is much more dangerous than sailing.)
- Read Mark 4:38. Were the disciples, with all of their skill and strength and youth, up to the challenge of the storm? (No. They thought they were in danger of drowning.)
- Consider the question the disciples ask Jesus. What seems odd about it? Is this the way you would have asked for help? (The obvious plea is "Help us, or we are going to drown!" Instead, they challenge Jesus' concern and love for them. The good part is that it assumes Jesus is supposed to care about them. They bad part is that they suggest Jesus doesn't care.)
- Read Mark 4:39-40. Jesus hints that the disciples would not have been afraid if they had faith. Should they have been fearless in the storm?
- Put yourself in the middle of this wild storm; the boat is sinking and you have tried everything you know to keep it from sinking. How would you naturally feel? (I suspect Jesus is referring (at least in part) back to their question. Fear is natural in such a situation. The problem was that they doubted Jesus' concern for them. They had not set their sight on His love and care. Jesus rebukes them for fearing that He did not care.)
- Read Mark 4:41. Have you heard the expression "Take a chill pill?" It means to calm down. The disciples were afraid during the storm and now that Jesus has calmed the storm they are "terrified." Why do they go from one terror to another?
- If they weren't expecting Jesus to calm the storm, what did they have in mind when they woke Him up and asked "Don't you care if we drown?" (Perhaps they just wanted Jesus to hug them.)
- When you are in deep trouble do you usually know exactly what you want?
- Which do we want most: Someone to care or someone to fix the problem? (There are a couple of lessons here for disciples. First, we underestimate the power of God to help us. We need to have a firm view of His power. Second, if God lets us get into trouble, we begin to accuse Him of not caring. This story teaches us that through the eyes of faith we will have confidence that He cares. We will not doubt that. We then leave it to God to tend to the problem however He chooses.)
- Mark recounts the story of the miraculous feeding of the 5,000 followed by another sea storm story. If you do not know the story of the feeding of the 5,000 (out of just five loaves and two fish) read it in Mark 6:34-44. Let's continue by reading Mark 6:45-46. What kind of an attitude would the disciples have after the feeding of the 5,000? (What a day! Jesus had shown His power to create food.)
- Read Mark 6:47. What is different about this sea story? (Jesus is not in the boat.)
- Read Mark 6:48. After this high day, in what kind of situation do the disciples find themselves? (Difficult. There was a storm and they were "straining" to make any progress. The fourth watch would be 3:00 in the morning. They had been rowing for eight or nine hours and made it only half way across the lake.)
- Is your life like this sometimes? A very high spiritual experience followed by an experience in which you are straining?
- What is Jesus doing? (He is watching them.)
- Why doesn't He intervene? Why leave them straining for all this time?
- Why don't they ask Him to intervene? Where is their "vision" focused?
- Look at Mark 6:48 again. When Jesus finally appears to be doing something, we read that He was going to "pass them by." Why would Jesus walk past them? (Jesus is watching and concerned. He begins to act on the problem before He is asked for help. But, it appears He is not going to actually intervene without some sort of request.)
- What lesson is there in this for us?
- Read Mark 6:49-50. Do the disciples recognize Jesus? (No!)
- Why would Jesus do this? Why would He come so close, but not close enough for the disciples to recognize Him? (I believe that Jesus was waiting for them to call upon Him. He probably delayed coming because He was sure they would not call on Him for a while - they would continue to depend on themselves. But even now, when they are tired and frightened, they still do not call on Jesus.)
- On what basis does Jesus calm them? (He has compassion and He helps the disciples even though they have not specifically called for His help. They are still not looking in the right place for help.)
- Bread Stories
- Read Mark 6:51-52. The disciples "had not understood about the loaves." What did they fail to understand? (Notice the sequence here. Jesus calms the storm when He is in the boat. He then performs an extraordinary miracle (feeding the 5,000) in which they are coworkers. Immediately after, they get into some major trouble. Jesus is watching them, but they are simply straining through it. They do not call on Jesus, but He comes near anyway. Finally, they are completely terrified and He rescues them. They are amazed because they do not understand about the loaves.)
- What is loaf understanding? (That Jesus can master any problem in your life. They should have called upon Him at the very beginning of the problem. They should not have been amazed that He was the solution to their problem.)
- How about you? When do you call on Jesus to help? Only after you have been "straining" for eight or nine hours? Does it take you that long to look to Jesus?
- Does Jesus wait to help you because He knows you will not look to Him earlier?
- Let's consider at another bread analogy. Read Matthew 16:1-4. What is the sign of Jonah? (Read Matthew 12:39-41. Jesus is saying that they do not want to believe He is the Messiah, even though it is obvious from what He has done. They refuse to believe the evidence that they see. Their sign will be His death and resurrection.)
- How about you? Do you resist Jesus' teaching? Do you resist the Holy Spirit? Are you looking in the wrong place?
- Read Matthew 16:5-7. Aren't you glad the disciples put their collective intelligence together?
- Read Matthew 16:8-11. Why does Jesus say "You of little faith" as opposed to "You of little intelligence?" (They thought Jesus was telling them to beware of purchasing bread with bad yeast from the Pharisees and Sadducees. Jesus had fed thousands with nothing. They should never have to worry about buying bread when they were with Him. If they had faith, they would not have taken this first logical misstep.)
- Read Matthew 16:12. Yeast (leaven) represents impurity or corruption. Compare Leviticus 2:11 with 1 Corinthians 5:6-8. The disciples finally got the point. What is the lesson for us today? (How many times we reach the wrong conclusion because we do not approach our problems through the eyes of faith. Instead of keeping our eye on God, we keep our eye on the mundane things that He will supply- like bread.)
- Friend, will you determine to adjust your vision so that you look at every problem through the eyes of faith? Will you focus on the spiritual rather than the material?