Today’s Texts and Thoughts of Encouragement
“God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord.”
1 Corinthians 1:9
“Upon Thy Word I rest
Each pilgrim day;
This golden staff is best
For all the way.
What Jesus Christ hath spoken
Cannot be broken!
Upon Thy Word I rest
So strong, so sure!
So full of comfort blest,
So sweet, so pure!
The charter of salvation,
Faith’s broad foundation.
Upon Thy Word I stand,
That cannot die;
Christ seals it in my hand,
He cannot lie!
Thy Word that faileth never,
Frances Ridley Havergal
Today’s Study Text:
“Then He began again to teach by the seashore. And a crowd gathered around Him so great that He got into a boat and sat in it, a little way from the shore, while all the people were on the land close to the water. He taught them many lessons in figures, (parables), and said to them in the course of the teaching, ‘Listen, A sower went out to sow’…With many such figures He told them the message, as far as they were able to receive it. He said nothing to them except in figures, but in private He explained everything to His own disciples. That same day, when it was evening He said to them, ‘Let us cross to the other side.’”
“The Prince of Peace” – Part 3
“The Other Side”
“Oh is it not a magnificent thing to be privileged thus, in any small measure, to spread the glorious tidings of our Blessed Lord!”
What do I think Jesus meant when He said to His disciples, “Let us go to the other side?”
“I don’t think it’s coincidental that the first two letters in “gospel” are “go.”
What message does my life give about Jesus to those I encounter each day?
“We are the only light the world has. The Lord could come down Himself and give light to the world, but He has chosen differently.”
A. B. Simpson
Days of Heaven Upon Earth
“The life-saving strategy of Jesus is based on ordinary people showing and telling about Him in ordinary places.”
Called To Greatness
It has been a long day for Jesus. As Mark’s record tells us, Jesus taught those who came to hear His message of good news from morning until eventide. Not from a beautifully carved podium, instead He taught by the seaside of Galilee. However, the crowd around Him expanded to such a size that “He got into a boat and sat in it, a little way from the shore, while all the people were on the land close to the water” (Mark 4: 1 – Goodspeed New Testament).
It is no wonder that Mark reports to his readers that by night fall, Jesus told His’ disciples, “Let us cross to the other side.” While this may appear to be a simple request, made by Jesus, at the end of a long day desiring to get away from the crowd that pressed around Him, it would do us well to take an important second look at the phrase, “other side,” for there is a much deeper meaning found in those two words than I noticed at first glance.
In the morning hours, Jesus’ teaching focused on planting the seed of heavenly Good News. It is with this “planting” of seed as our backdrop that we take a brief moment to familiarize ourselves with what was actually on the “other side” of the sea. Mark tells us in Mark 5: 1 that “they came over unto the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gadarenes.” To get a better understanding of the geography relating to this story, I went to the Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible where I found that Gadara was “southeast of the southern end of the Sea of Galilee, one of the cities of the Decapolis.” Furthermore, “the inhabitants of the city and surrounding countryside were predominantly non-Jewish.”
As my research on this area uncovered, since most of the people living in the region of Gadara were Gentiles, for Jesus to tell His’ disciples to take Him to “the other side” was a call for them to be expansive in their thinking as to where the Gospel message – the Good News – should be taken. In fact, earlier in the day when Jesus was talking about planting seed, He spent time talking about the tiny mustard seed, so very small it went unnoticed. Yet, the parable Jesus related about this seed “contrasts the mustard bush’s microscopic beginning with its lush outcome.” It was just before Jesus called upon His followers to take Him to the “other side” of Galilee that He underlined the fact that the growth of God’s Kingdom could be compared to the rapid growth of the mustard seed until a plant, “when it is grown, becometh greater than all herbs, and shooteth out great branches; so that the fowls of the air may lodge under the shadow of it” (Mark 4: 12, K.J.V.). As the Zondervan Bible Commentary points out, “the ‘birds of the air’ was a transparent symbol for the nations of Gentiles…the background may point to more subtle meanings hidden in the parable of the mustard bush. Jesus’ Words regarding going to the “other side” leads Biblical scholars to highlight the fact that Christ’s mission to this earth and His Kingdom, was not one of exclusivity. It wasn’t just a Kingdom for one group of people. His arms of love embraced not only the Jewish people but He reached out to the “other side” where the Gentiles lived as well.
What a Lord and Savior. After a long day teaching, His mind was not focused on His own needs but on those who had not heard His words – “the others.” Those who felt excluded because they were not part of the “chosen” people.
In her commentary on the words found in Mark 4: 35-41, Professor Beverly Zinke-Sawyer observes that “the events recorded in this section of Mark’s Gospel take place on alternate sides of the Sea of Galilee.” Since the most direct route between the shores was across the sea, there are several references of boat crossings…Scholars have noted, however, that Jesus’ command to the disciples in Mark 4: 35, “Let us go across to the other side,” indicates more than simply a change of venue. The ‘other side’ represents Gentile territory, the ‘country of the Gerasenes (5:1).’ This story is brought to our attention by Mark for it is Jesus’ first “foray into what might be considered a dangerous, even inappropriate destination.”
But as Professor Zinke-Sawyer underscores in her study of Mark 4:
“Thus Jesus’ venture into such a foreign region across the sea is a deliberate demonstration of His claim that His mission extends beyond the Jews. By carrying His ministry into Gentile territory, Jesus reaches out to the strangers, the others, even the enemies of the House of Israel.”
Bringing Mark’s words into the contemporary setting of God’s witnesses to the Good News of God’s heavenly Kingdom today, we need to confront our own witness to those around us each day. As the Professor asks: “Who are the strangers, the others whom we have neglected? Who are the people and where are the places left untouched by Christian hospitality due to ancient hatreds and fears? The Gospel Jesus proclaims and demonstrates represents good news for all, transcending the human characteristics we use to separate ourselves from others.” Mark’s words are especially vital as well as timely for God’s children today, no matte which side of the lake we find ourselves on. May our lips speak with the love expressed by Susan Williams:
“Lord Jesus, killed by hate and raised by love,
help us to be Your witnesses in a hostile world,
to show most love where there is most hate,
and to live united with one another until You come again.”
Sir Henry Morton Stanley, the Welsh-American journalist, explorer and friend of David Livingstone, commenting on their relationship said that, “when I saw the unwearied patience and unflagging zeal of Dr. Livingstone, I became a Christian at his side, though he never spoke to me about it.” May it be said of us as well that our quiet, consistent witness to those we come in contact with each day, draws those around us to their Father in heaven. In the words of Francis of Assisi – “Preach the gospel everyday; if necessary use words.”
Praise God for the ‘gospel’ – the Good News – or as the Greek word “Evangel” means – glad tidings of good news. The Gospel is welcome information. It is a shout of rejoicing. It makes us sing with a joyful heart. Indeed, the Gospel is the catalyst that propels us to go to “others” wherever they are found – whoever they may be. Hallelujah! In the words of David McKay:
“The gospel of Jesus Christ can make bad men good and good men better, can alter human nature; can change human lives.”
“I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us”? Then I said, ‘Here am I! Send me.’”
“Draw Your church together, O God, into one great company of disciples, together following our Lord Jesus Christ into every walk of life, together serving Him in His mission to the world, and together witnessing to His love on every continent and island.”
A New Zealand Prayer Book
“Gather us, Lord, or scatter us;
do as Thou deemest right,
building us all into one:
a church with open doors and large windows,
a church that takes the world seriously,
ready to work and to suffer,
and even to bleed for it.”
Dorothy Valcàrcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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