Category Archives: Mark

Jesus and Legion

The meeting between Jesus and Legion is fascinating. Jesus converses with the demon and then banishes him into a herd of pigs. The story is exciting and curious, and there are important lessons to be learned. The account is found in Matthew 8:28-34; Mark 5:1-20 and Luke 8:26-39.

Jesus is preaching in Galilee and has just crossed the Sea of Galilee in a boat. During the crossing a terrible storm frightened his disciples into fearing for their lives. Jesus rebuked the winds and waves, the storm ended and calm descended on the waters. Jesus had demonstrated his authority over the elements of nature. Now, stepping onto the rocky bank of the eastern shore of the sea, Jesus is confronted by a man of some local notoriety. The man was possessed. His life was a miserable existence. He wore no clothes and lived among the tombs perhaps sheltering in them during inclement weather. The man immediately confronts Jesus and the disciples. Within minutes, the demons are cast out into nearby pigs which rush headlong into the sea and drown. The narrative provides important learning for us.

Demons are real.

The story is recorded  here by all three of the synoptic writers. The Bible describes them as demons and notes Jesus interaction with them. Demons were objects of worship in the Bible (Leviticus 17:7; Deuteronomy 32:17; Psalm 106:37; 1 Corinthians 10:20-21; 1 Timothy 4:1). The New Testament also records the existence of demons with the word occurring in 68 verses. In most cases, the demons are objects of God’s power to be cast out of men for God’s own glory. Some would wish to ignore the existence of demons and think only on good things. But Satan and his underlings are real.

Demons are not all powerful.

Hollywood, from the days of The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby, have given us the impression that Satan and his demons are as powerful as God himself. But here we see otherwise. In Luke 8:28, the demons came before Jesus and “fell down before him.” This is an act of contrition; it is an act of submission. The demon then begged Jesus not to torment him. The word “beg” translates the Greek, deomai, which means to ask with urgency and with an implied need. The demon knew he needed Jesus’ help and submitted to him.

Demons know and worship the Lord.

It is striking to see a demon bowing before Jesus. We are also caught a bit off-guard when the demon speaks to Jesus and calls him by name. Knowing who Jesus is and even feigning worship to him is simply not sufficient. This echoes James’ statement from James 2:19: “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe and shudder!” Mere believe, apart from obedience is useless (James 2:20).

Jesus wins!

This small story really sums up the entirety of the book of Revelation. Despite the trouble Satan causes, despite the pain he brings, Jesus always wins. When the demons asked Jesus to send them into the nearby swine, Luke simply says Jesus “gave them permission´(Luke 8:32). The demons entered the pigs and they rushed into the sea and were destroyed. The man is next seen sitting clothed at the feet of Jesus and in his right mind. This event was so powerful that the people asked Jesus to leave the region because they feared his great power.

While this is an interesting story, it has a purpose. Like all miraculous acts, the purpose was to build faith in Christ, confirm his words and teachings, and to make more disciples. The formerly possessed man begs Jesus to allow him to travel with him but the Lord says no.  “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.

What a joy to serve a Lord that can command demons to depart! There is none greater than our Lord!

Should Mark 16:9-20 Be In The Bible?

(This article and the linked paper are from an old Freed-Hardeman friend, David Hester. This is an important scholarly work which should be considered by mature Christians. I think David has reached some very valid conclusions here and I commend his article to your reading. As always, please post your comments below and we will ask David to address them here -jbe)

We live in a world that is more hostile towards the Bible than ever before. No longer can one assume that all people are familiar with Scripture. As a result, infidelity is gaining ground. The Jesus Seminar—a group of theological liberals who deny the deity of Jesus and His miracles—dominates mass media. TV shows such as “Frontline” and cable channels such as the Discovery Channel frequently showcase such liberals as the “experts” in religion. One such liberal had the audacity to write a chapter for a book entitled, “The Irrelevancy of the Empty Tomb.”

In such a climate, the Lord’s church needs reasoned, informed individuals responding to such attacks. It does not necessarily take advanced degrees to be able to be effective. We must get back to what we are best at—familiarity with the Word of God. And, we must hold up the hands of those who are on the front lines of the battle for the minds of men.

Mark 16:9-20 is a passage that has been rejected by many. In the first edition of the New International version (NIV),  the passage was nowhere to be found (though in subsequent editions, it was included).Denominational preachers argued in debate that Mark 16:16 is irrelevant, because it “doesn’t belong in the Bible.” The scholarly world, for many years, agreed with this view.

However, that view is changing. In recent years, there has been a reevaluation of the evidence. And, it is about time. Gus Nichols, Guy N. Woods, and B. C. Goodpasture were right. May their tribe increase.

Please read the article on Mark 16 here.

Through the Eye of a Needle

Camels are big – really big. Standing over 7 feet tall these interesting creatures inhabit the dry desert regions of the Middle East. They have been used in combat for millenia and were even used experimentally in the American Civil War. The camel has an ability to frighten horses and so they have proven useful on the cavalry battlefield.

Jesus spoke of the camel in the synoptic Gospels just after speaking with the rich young ruler who was told to sell all that he had. Matthew records the words similar to Mark and Luke:

Again, I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 19:24).

Such a comment was astonishing to the listeners who concluded that no one could be saved.  Jesus corrects their misunderstanding in verse 26 when he says that “with men this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible.”

It is indeed an odd, even cryptic saying of our Lord. What exactly does he mean and what should present day hearers take from this passage?

An Attempt to Explain How A Camel Can Pass Through A Needle’s Eye

Some time ago, a teacher hit upon a way to explain this passage. The story is that the needle’s eye in the Gospels is not the same needle we think of today. Instead, the needle’s eye was a small passageway built into t he side of a walled city. The passage was so low that a camel would have to pass through by crawling and not walking. This would prove very difficult but possible.

An interesting suggestion but wholly unacceptable when one considers the facts.

A Camel Cannot Go Through the Eye of a Needle

Let us begin by taking the Scripture in their simplest interpretation. Using Occam’s Razor we make the fewest assumptions possible about what Jesus means and just take it at its face value. We know what a camle is and we know a camel cannot pass through the eye of a needle.

  • We observe that there are no other Bible passages which are contradicted or compromised by this interpretation.
  • We observe the ease with which a hearer would have understood Jesus’ comment.
  • We note the smooth flow of the text and context to verse 26 where Jesus offers a fuller explanation of his intention.
  • We also mention that the idea of a gate called the Needle’s Eye was never even thought of until the 11th century by Theophylact. So far as we know such a gate was just a fabrication!

The Beauty of Jesus’ Words

What Jesus speaks of is impossible (Matthew 19:26). The word Jesus uses is a derivative of the dunamis in Romans 1:16 where Paul declares his faith in the Gospel as the power of God unto salvation. However in Matthew 19:26 the Greek word is prefixed by the letter alpha – a – which creates an opposite word. Instead of man have power to do something he has no power. Therefore, in this context of wealthy people, thy have no power to reach heaven within themselves. The power Jesus says, is with God!

While Jesus was speaking of the wealthy in these passages, the same idea – the impossibility of self salvation – is prevalent in other passages. Most notably Paul’s comment in Romans 3:28  and Galatians 2:16 that no man can be justified through works and Romans 5:23 that salvation is a free gift of God and not earned by men.

Jesus is saying that just as a camel cannot pass through the eye of a needle and man cannot earn or pay his way into heaven.

We ought use care not to move too far in one direction. Jesus is not declaring that man does nothing. Man must be obedient and faithful to Christ.  Just as the young ruler was instructed to do certain things, so too we have been commanded to do certain things. Jesus says in Luke 17:10 that when a servant has done what he has been told, then he has done nothing remarkable, just what he was supposed to do. Our actions and work are what we are supposed to do. Nothing more and nothing less.

Now when studying this passage, I hope you recall our discussion here. As always, this post is open for your comments.