Mark 3:1-6

Take a moment to read Mark 3:1-6 before reading the devotional below.

We learned about the Sabbath in yesterday’s Bible passage, as Jesus taught us about the idea that God’s Sabbath rest was meant to set us free. You know those timeshare deals that invite you to come for a “free vacation,” while trying to sell you something? In many ways, the religious leaders were trying to make the Sabbath like a timeshare sales gimmick. Let’s take something really amazing, like a free vacation, and turn it into something with loads of rules, requirements, and restrictions. God never intended the Sabbath to be that way — he gives gifts with no strings attached.

The religious leaders are now following Jesus, but not in the sense that they want to learn from him. Rather, they are trying to keep a distrustful eye on him and catch him breaking the Jewish law. In today’s passage, Jesus seems to do that when he heals a man’s hand on the Sabbath. Trying to bust him on a technicality, the religious leaders call him out for doing “work.” Religious people of all sorts often engage in this way of thinking, and they monitor themselves or others for tiny flaws while completely missing the entire point. God’s heart is always for healing, Sabbath or not. Jesus’ miraculous act is not a violation of God’s law to keep the Sabbath, but rather it is a reflection of the heart of God. Notice Jesus’ reaction to the religious leaders: he is deeply saddened.

Here’s your freedom for today: Jesus will melt your heart. He specializes in taking hardened hearts and turning them soft. In American culture, we often value being “tough” or not showing emotion. We want to press through, rely on ourselves, and dismiss any need for God. If you really get to know him, Jesus will melt your heart. He will take the hurting, cold, or dismissive pieces inside of you and begin to transform them to match the heart of God. Because God’s heartbeat is the definition of love, as we become like him we learn to love. When your heart beats like God’s, you do not question whether any day of the week is a good day for healing. You might even be willing to take some risks to do the right thing,  just like Jesus did.

Mark 2:18-28

Take a moment to read Mark 2:18-28 before reading the devotional below.

Have you ever compared yourself to someone else to try to figure out if you were doing the right thing? People do this a lot when they are trying to be “good enough” — perhaps they think they are worthy of heaven because they haven’t murdered anyone. “At least I’m not Hitler!” (That’s not exactly the best standard to use and that’s also not how the Gospel works, which is exactly what Jesus came to let us know.)

Now, you might be wondering what Jesus means when he starts talking about new cloth and new wineskins — not exactly language we use today. In these verses, Jesus is talking about the fact that his followers have a unique privilege to be with him while he is on earth. Some things are so extraordinary you just can’t contain them. Fasting (or giving up something as a spiritual practice for God) wasn’t necessary for them in that moment because what they needed most was right in front of them: their Savior, Jesus.

In this Bible passage Jesus also talks about the Sabbath, which is the day of rest that the Jewish people were commanded by God to have once each week. The extra religious Jews of that era had made all kinds of extra rules about the Sabbath, and Jesus was very happy to break those and bring it back to what God actually intended. Rest isn’t supposed to be full of rules and pressure.

Here’s your freedom for today: Jesus invites you to rest with him. When he was on earth with his followers, he didn’t think it was the right moment to add extra spiritual disciplines to their growth. He also wanted them to take a break from all the extra spiritual rules. Jesus came to earth to show us that God’s heart is for us. He wants us to rest. He wants us to be cared for. He wants us to focus on him instead of a bunch of rules. Religious people don’t like this, because their rules make them feel safe and confident in themselves. But Jesus wasn’t a religious person and he wasn’t interested in making religious people. He was interested in setting people free.

Mark 2:13-17

Take a moment to read Mark 2:13-17 before reading the devotional below.

When we read stories about Jesus, we have to remember that these are eyewitness accounts. People watched Jesus, touched Jesus, and followed Jesus. We do not have the privilege of his physical presence right in front of us, so we have to cling to the words of those who shared about him. Jesus is constantly surrounded by crowds, right in the thick of the action. In today’s passage, he’s back at the shoreline where he picked out his first disciples from a bunch of fishermen. Jesus doesn’t care about your profession, he’s simply interested in whether or not you want to come with him on his journey. To add to his fishermen group, he invites a tax collector.

Far from IRS agents, tax collectors in Jesus’ day were fishier than the fishermen. They were slimy, greedy, cheating, and hated. So Levi was probably fairly surprised when Jesus said, “Why don’t you come be my disciple?” There is a sense of rescue from an evil life right then and there. As you have probably noticed by now, the religious types really did not like Jesus. They did not appreciate the way that he associated with “scum.” Religious people are supposed to be neat and clean and dressed in Sunday best and in church, right? Well, Jesus didn’t seem to think so.

Here’s your freedom for today: Jesus plans to heal you. In this Bible passage, Jesus says that people who are healthy do not need a doctor. If you are sick, then you need healing. Since he came to heal people, it is only logical that he would surround himself with those who were not well. Spiritually speaking, Jesus was letting the religious people know that if they were content without him, then they could take care of themselves. The low-lifes knew they needed Jesus because they had no one else who ever wanted to take an interest in them. Jesus saw through their pain straight to the people they were becoming. And he loved them. And he healed them back to life.

Do you need Jesus today? Or are you pretty much all set? If you are focused on trying to just be a good person, you might end up feeling like you don’t really see any reason to pay attention to Jesus. He might even make you feel uncomfortable sometimes. But if you have some place deep inside your soul that is empty, or hurting, or searching, then cry out to Jesus. It’s not hard, just talk outloud or say it in your head: “Jesus, please heal me.” That one simple prayer just might change your life.

Mark 2:1-12

Take a moment to read Mark 2:1-12 before reading the devotional below. 

Words carry tremendous power. We can try to make them less influential than sticks or stones, but bruises heal a lot faster than the pain inflicted by words. In today’s passage, we watch a fascinating story unfold: Jesus is back in town and a crowd has quickly gathered. Eventually the small house he is in becomes standing-room-only and people start resorting to very unconventional methods to reach him. We’ll talk more about that in a minute, but let’s notice the power of Jesus’ words (because the religious leaders certainly did). He tells a man that his sins have been forgiven. Sounds like a pretty encouraging thing to say, right? But the religious leaders know that Jesus is asserting a spiritual power that is on par with God himself. “Only God can forgive sins!” they think to themselves.

Turns out Jesus can read minds so he calls out their thinking. And just when you thought that was going to be that, Jesus decides to pull off a miracle to physically demonstrate his spiritual power. We see a direct encounter of the supernatural world in the physical realm. Jesus heals the man who was previously paralyzed. The man picks up his mat and walks on home. Needless to say, the crowd is impressed.

Here’s your freedom for today: Jesus will never disappoint. The crowds came to see whatever Jesus would do because he had a unique reputation. As we talked about yesterday, most probably had just a natural curiosity and nothing better to do. But others were desperate. The man who could not walk to Jesus needed the help of his friends, and the friends had a crowd in the way. This must have felt like their one and only shot — if it was ever possible, it would have to be now. And Jesus, almost as an object lesson to the religious leaders, does not disappoint. Imagine the reaction of the man and the four friends who have just cut a hole in the roof of someone else’s house just to get to Jesus. Obviously they are looking for healing, but when he sees their faith (and feels bits of ceiling debris hit his head) he forgives the man’s sins. Perhaps the man felt a bit misunderstood, seeing as he and his friends just did all this so that he could walk again. My sins, Jesus? I’d rather feel my legs at the moment.

The religious leaders saw the forgiveness of sins as the ultimate supernatural act, but were offended at Jesus’ claim of authority. The man may have seen the forgiveness of sins as a second-rate option compared to what he really came for. As it turns out, everyone was thinking in the wrong direction. Release from everything you’ve ever done wrong is absolutely the bigger gift. But Jesus himself was the ultimate combination of the supernatural and the physical — God inhabiting a man. He came to show that the physical and supernatural worlds go very much hand-in-hand, and he can just as easily forgive sins as he can heal legs. He gave everyone what they needed in that moment. He will do the same for you as you read the Bible and encounter the Holy Spirit.

Mark 1:29-45

Take a moment to read Mark 1:29-45 before reading the devotional below.

When you pay attention to the supernatural world, strange things begin to happen. Or perhaps you simply notice the unusual things that for some reason you never saw before. As Jesus’ ministry continues, people start to follow for all kinds of reasons. Most are simply fascinated and don’t want to miss out on the most interesting thing in town. Some are desperate for healing, and they start flocking to Jesus in droves. (Oh, and by the way, the demons seem to know Jesus and he certainly knows them…)

As Jesus encounters sick people, he does something quite forbidden: he touches them. If there was one thing everybody knew about leprosy, it was that you did not under any circumstances touch a leper. (They didn’t even know the word “germs” yet, but they had that one down pat.) The man with leprosy in today’s passage does not presume Jesus will be any different than anyone else he has ever met. He asks Jesus to heal him, saying, “If you are willing…” When Jesus touched people, his supernatural healing power was far more contagious than any disease. The leprosy vanishes, and despite Jesus’ request for the healing to be kept quiet, word spreads like wildfire.

Here’s your freedom for today: Jesus is willing. He is willing to touch you, no matter how many other people have refused. He is willing to heal you. He is willing to meet you exactly where you are at today with no pretenses, no demands, and no formalities. Just Jesus supernaturally encountering your life. While Jesus was on earth, he could do this very physically. Once he returned to heaven (described in Luke 24 and Acts 1), he sent his Holy Spirit to work far more directly in people’s hearts. What are you asking Jesus to heal in you today? He has sent his Spirit to do that work. He is willing. Are you?