House Groups should have restarted on the week beginning February 15th 2021 but are still proscribed due to covid. Material on the psalms has been produced for home study for six weeks. Hard copies can be obtained from me but the material is here printed below
Bible Notes to be used at groups or home from February to Easter 2021 – see below the next two paragraphs in italics
We value reading and learning from the Bible since it is the foundation of our faith. Its teaching never goes out of date because God and people have not changed. In the Old Testament we read of how God made the world and tried to establish a relationship with us, which we kept breaking until we were almost completely out of touch with him. The prophets looked forward to a time when God would do something new to bring us back to God. This special agent or Messiah would be identified with God Himself.
In the New Testament we read of the coming to earth of this rescuer, Jesus. We read of his life, his teachings and miracles, his death and resurrection, God who became a man. We read then of what his disciples did in spreading the message about Jesus as rescuer. Paul and others write letters to encourage the early Christians in their relationships with the risen Jesus and with one another.
Our bible studies focus not on academic study but on finding out what the Bible is saying to us about how we should run our personal and church lives.
‘Mark my words’ – Following in the footsteps of Jesus Lent Groups
Mark is the shortest of the four gospels and probably the earliest.
It has 16 chapters and 678 verses, but less than a third appears in the Sunday lectionary for year B, so we must read it all ourselves.
The probable author of the gospel is John Mark, who lived in Jerusalem (Acts 12.12) and who was a companion of Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey (Acts 13.4-13). It is thought that the reference to the “young man” in 14.51,52 may be to himself.
The gospel was probably written before the siege and destruction of Jerusalem in AD70. A historian of the early church said that Mark was Peter’s interpreter, and it focuses a lot on him.
The gospel is in three main sections:
FIRST SECTION (1.1 – 9.50) takes place mainly in Galilee.
THIRD SECTION (11.1-16.8) takes place in Jerusalem.
MIDDLE SECTION (8.27 – 10.52) is a sort of “journey” from Galilee to Jer’m.
In the first verse of Mark, Jesus is announced as the “Son of God” (1.1) and this is confirmed by the voice at his baptism (1.11). In the middle section, in the Transfiguration, the divine voice confirms this again (9.7). And in the third part a Roman centurion who confesses, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (15.39)
The gospel of Mark is an “action-packed” story, written in a vigorous style. The word “immediately” is used 41 times. The present tense is used 151 times, as if the events were unfolding in front of our eyes. There are no stories from the first 30 years of Jesus’ life. The gospel ends very abruptly.
WHY was the gospel of Mark written ?
Mark was written to show who Jesus was.
Mark was written to show some of Jesus’ mighty works.
Mark was written to show how and why Jesus died.
Mark was written to show how people responded to Jesus.
Mark was written to show what following Jesus involves.
Mark was written to help us WORSHIP Jesus and WITNESS to him.
Do you have your own answers to this question?
Just read the first nine chapters of Mark as a start – to pick up the feel of it
STUDY 1 JESUS HEALS A PARALYSED MAN
Read Mark chapter 1 and chapter 2. 10-12.
- What amazing works has Jesus already done before today’s story?
- Imagine the scene! What was Jesus doing? What were the crowds doing? Whose home was it? What are YOU doing in this story ?
- Four men arrive with a stretcher on which lies a paralysed man. How are they going to get their friend near to Jesus? What sort of house does this story presuppose? Imagine what the home owner felt?!
- Amid sunshine and dust and general consternation the man on the stretcher arrives in front of Jesus. What happens next – according to verse 5? What do you think Mark means by “their faith”? Did the friends carry the paralysed man to Jesus for his sins to be forgiven? Does the story imply that the man was paralysed because of some sin? Who brought you to Jesus ? Who have you brought ?
- How did the “scribes” get into the house and into the story? What is the objection which they have “in their hearts”? How does Jesus read their hearts and what does he say/do?
6. Is it possible that 2.10 is Mark’s explanation to his readers about what Jesus did next? “Son of man” is Jesus’ favourite self-designation in the gospels; it occurs 14 times in Mark; 12 times after the disciples have recognised who Jesus really is in Mark 8.29.
7. What happens after Jesus’ words to the paralysed man? How did the man react? How did the friends react? How did the crowd react? How do YOU REACT?
8.Every miracle of Jesus is a signpost to WHO JESUS REALLY IS. The scribes’ question in verse 7, “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” is a good question. But what is the wrong answer which they gave? (Mark 1.1) What is the RIGHT answer? The question, “WHO IS THIS?” reverberates through all the gospels and still today. What answer do I give to this ? How does my life reveal the significance of this answer?
STUDY 2 JESUS HEALS THE MAN WITH THE WITHERED HAND
Read MARK 3.1-6
1. The issue which is getting Jesus into trouble is his attitude to the Jewish law. What issues have arisen about this matter in the three paragraphs immediately before this story?
2. Imagine the scene in the synagogue. There is the man with the withered hand; there is Jesus. Who are the “they” who are watching Jesus? (There are more details about this story in Matthew 12.9-14 and Luke 6.6-11). Where are YOU in this story?
3. The Jewish law permitted the saving of life on the Sabbath day. But this man was not evidently in mortal danger. What “atmosphere” does verse 2 generate in this story?
4. Although it is the Sabbath issue that takes the attention away from the man with the problem, he is still asked to come out from the anonymity of the crowd to receive his healing. Why does Jesus often make people come out like that ? How would you feel ? Has or does Jesus ever call you out in a way that makes you feel vulnerable or special ? 5. Explain Jesus’ anger and grief. Do you have/ Have you had any comparable emotions about things which “are not right” today?
6. Verse 6 uses the word “immediately” (which is common in Mark). In 3.22 the scribes suggest that Jesus is “possessed by Beelzebul” ie the ‘prince of demons’.) How might Mark’s readers in Rome have taken some encouragement from the way opposition to Jesus erupted so suddenly and so violently? Have you ever experienced false accusations in connection with your Christian faith or action
7. Do you have a “withered hand” you wish to bring to Jesus?
STUDY 3 JESUS HEALS THE POSSESSED MAN FROM GERASA
Read MARK 5.1-20
Mark chapter 5 contains two of the longest miracle stories in Mark. (Actually there are three stories, because the story of the healing of Jairus’ daughter is intertwined with another story about a woman with a “bleeding problem”.) These three stories and the last story in chapter 4 reveal Jesus as LORD:
- Lord of nature – in calming the storm;
- Lord over demons – in today’s story;
- Lord over sickness – in the story of the woman;
- Lord over death – in the story of Jairus’ little daughter. 1. What has happened between the previous story of Jesus and the man with the withered hand and today’s story?
- Returning to today’s story: Describe the main characteristics of this desperate man’s behaviour. Do you have any experience of demonic oppression/ possession?
- One striking feature of the story is that this man immediately recognised who Jesus was, runs towards Jesus and begs Jesus NOT to send them out of the country! How do you explain this strange, contradictory behaviour?
- What is the response of the pig herds? What is the response of the local people? How is the dramatic change in the man’s behaviour described?
5. The man wanted to follow Jesus everywhere. But what were Jesus’ instructions and what were the results when the man followed them?
6. What emotions do you experience on reading this story? Pray for the person you know who seems to be the absolutely least likely to respond positively to Jesus, to the gospel.
STUDY 4 JESUS HEALS ANOTHER LITTLE GIRL
Read MARK 7.24-30
1. Jesus is now on Gentile territory and the woman who comes looking for him is not a Jew. Mark says she was a “Gentile”; Matthew says she was a “Canaanite”. How is her little daughter’s condition described? What signs of urgency do the woman’s behaviour and words reveal? And what does she specifically request?` 2 Look at verse 27. What exactly is Jesus saying to the woman? Who are the “children” and who are the “dogs”?
3. Now read verse 28. Is the woman accepting what Jesus says, or contradicting him? Some bible versions and some commentators think she is accepting what Jesus says; and some commentators describe Jesus’ behaviour/attitude as brutal, offensive, insolent, atrocious and …. other words are used… Today they might call it “hate speech” and demand that Jesus attend a “Syrophoenician lives matter” course….
4. It is clear to me that the woman is contradicting what Jesus says. She probably detects the twinkle in Jesus’ eye, or that he has his “tongue in his cheek” and she rises to his challenge. Jesus says that surely it is NOT RIGHT to give bread to the dogs?! The woman replies, “YES IT IS RIGHT! Even if the Jews are the children; and the Gentiles are the “dogs” IT IS RIGHT for the dogs to get something! Help me!”
5. Jesus’ provocative challenge brings out this brilliant, feisty reply from a woman who is really in earnest. Jesus is delighted and grants her request. She goes home and finds her daughter well! There is also an oblique rebuke to the disciples who tried to stop her “bothering” Jesus. But the disciples learnt their lesson – later most of them went to the ends of the earth to preach to people who would never more be “dogs” to them.
6. How does this story too function as a signpost towards WHO JESUS REALLY IS? Where do you find yourself in this story?
STUDY 5 JESUS HEALS THE TROUBLED BOY
Read MARK 9.14-29
- Where do you find yourself in this story? What dramatic and important event has immediately preceded today’s story? Who was arguing with whom as this story begins? (This story is also told in Matthew 17.14-21 and Luke 9.37-43a – but Mark’s account is much the fullest of the three.)
- What emotions predominate in this story? In the father? In the crowd? Among the disciples? In the boy and/or the spirit which was tormenting him? In Jesus himself? In you?
- Read verse 19. What tone of voice do you imagine Jesus using in saying these words? And who exactly was he calling “faithless generation”?
- Now read verses 22 to 24. The father wonders if Jesus “can” do anything to help – not just the boy but the whole family – note the word “us” which comes twice. (The disciples could NOT help….) Explain carefully what Jesus means by “… all things are possible to him who believes!” What can we learn from the father’s cry, “I believe; help my unbelief!”
- How do you picture the crowd in verse 25 “coming running together…”? What did Jesus say and do? Luke tells us (Luke 9.43) that “…all were astonished at the majesty of God.” How does this confirm our earlier understanding that every miracle of Jesus is a signpost to who he really is?
- How does Jesus answer the disciples’ question, “Why could we not cast it out?” Matthew 17.20 adds the detail, “…because of your little faith.” What do we learn from this story about where the STRENGTH of faith lies?
- The father mentions his UNBELIEF – but his request is granted;
- The disciples are criticised for their LACK of faith and prayer.