The Jews of Jesus’ day, long oppressed by foreign rulers, yearned for a new king – one whom God Himself would anoint and use to establish His own rule of justice and peace not only over Israel but the whole earth. Imagine the excitement when John the Baptist, after hundreds of years of silence from God, came announcing the coming of the Lord as king and when Jesus Himself announced, “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). Not everyone was pleased with the kind of kingdom He announced. The religious rulers especially opposed Him, but the common people heard Him gladly.
In the second gospel of the New Testament, Mark sets out to tell the story of Jesus, showing that the kingdom in its glory comes at the end of the path of suffering and service. Mark portrays Jesus principally as the servant-king whom we should follow (see Mark 1:17). The gospel of Mark challenges us that if we are to enjoy the glories of the kingdom, we too must follow our Savior down the road of suffering and service.
This week in New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs Reading Plan we’ll dig deeper into Mark’s account of Jesus’ life. Additionally, we’ll read David’s musings on the wickedness of humanity (Psalm 53), along with two Psalms that came from difficult times in his life (Psalms 54 and 55). Additionally, we’ll look at Solomon’s proverbs concerning wealth and popularity and the proper use of the tongue. This week promises to be challenging and uplifting. May God bless us as we read His Holy Word together.
Monday, May 6 – Mark 2; Psalm 53
Chapter 1 of Mark’s gospel is a string of success stories. Beginning with chapter 2, however, opposition begins to develop. As Jesus speaks more about the meaning of His message and the significance of His healing ministry, He provokes confrontation by challenging not only the authority of religious leaders but their whole way of life. Nevertheless, Jesus keeps reaching the lost and the outcast who come to Him. What motivates Jesus to respond to the paralytic’s plight was his friends’ “faith” (v. 5). Why do you suppose their faith made such a difference to Jesus? In what ways does Jesus’ healing of the paralytic answer the questions raised in the minds of the teachers of the law? The paralytic’s friends provide a model of caring. What are some practical ways you can follow their example?
In Psalm 53, the psalmist observes that the human race is morally corrupt. Evildoers oppress God’s people, but the psalmist is confident of God’s protection and anticipates a day when God will vindicate Israel. The ultimate lesson of this psalm is that it’s foolish to disregard God. Those who do so will experience present vanity in their lives and future judgment for their folly. How does it make you feel to live in such a wicked world, surrounded by such sinful people? Why, according to this psalm, is it foolish to say “There is no God” (v. 1)? It would be easy to throw up your hands and give up on trying to live a righteous life in face of such a sin-filled world, but what hope does David give you to stay true to God? In what ways did you need to read this psalm today?
Tuesday, May 7 – Mark 3; Proverbs 12:8-14
As Jesus’ ministry expands, so did rejection of Him as God’s anointed servant. Mark directs his readers back and forth between Jesus’ acceptance on a superficial level by the multitudes, His disciples’ growing commitment to Him, the increasing hostility of the religious leaders, and then opposition from an unlikely quarter… Jesus’ own mother and brothers. On one occasion, Jesus’ family came to seize Him and take Him back home (vv. 20, 31-32) because they thought, “He is out of His mind” (v. 21). Why were they thinking this about Jesus? When we you are opposed or rejected by those who are closest to you, what comfort can you receive from Jesus’ words in vv. 33-35? If you learn to see yourselves as part of God’s family, how might that transform your attitude toward His commandments?
“Better to be lowly and have a servant than to play the great man and lack bread” (v. 9). This is one several proverbs which makes use of the “Better… than” comparison structure (see also: 15:16-17; 16:8, 19, 32; 17:1; 19:1; 21:9; 25:7, 24; 27:5, 10; 28:6). To live comfortably without social importance is better than an outward show of affluence to win public praise that conceals poverty. In order not to live above his means, this modest individual allows himself to be slighted by society. While the petty person, enslaved to public opinion and doomed to shame, unwisely spends his sparse resources to keep up a vain show. Why do we care so much what people think about us? Be honest, to what lengths have to you gone to “play the great man [or woman]”? With these word of wisdom, how does Solomon challenge societies (and your own) perspective of what means to be successful or popular?
Wednesday, May 8 – Mark 4; Psalm 54
For the most part, the disciples were tough, hard-as-nails men. Several of them were seasoned fishermen from the Sea of Galilee (namely Peter, Andrew, James, John). Short of a storm of biblical-proportions it would take a lot to scare these men. In the midst of the wind and waves their faith in Jesus is tested but once again the Savior demonstrates His authority. Many unique features of Mark’s narrative seem to indicate that it came from an eyewitness account, probably Peter. These include mention of “on that day” (v. 35), “as He [Jesus] was” and the other boats (v. 36), the stern and the cushion (v. 38), and the rebuke, terror, and bewilderment of the disciples (vv. 38, 41). Why do you think the disciples were so afraid? What did the disciples learn about Jesus from this episode? Have you ever felt like the disciples did in v. 38? How did God respond to your fear and frustration?
According to the superscription, David wrote Psalm 54 during the period when Saul was seeking his life (as does Psalm 52). David composed this individual lament after the Ziphites had told King Saul where he was hiding (see 1 Samuel 23:19-20). Though despairing, David expresses ultimate confidence in God. His prayer here has three parts: 1) A Prayer of Distress (vv. 1-3), Anticipation of Deliverance (vv. 4-5), and The Thanksgiving for Deliverance (vv. 6-7). The psalm is a fitting prayer for any believer who is maligned by others. What are your first impressions about David’s prayer? In what ways is this prayer similar to and/or different from the prayers you offer when your heart is weary? In v. 4 David declares, “Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life.” How would your prayer life change for the better if you constantly keep these words in your heart? Write them on a card and keep it someone you’ll see it to remind you of God’s help.
Thursday, May 9 – Mark 5; Proverbs 12:15-22
The raising of Jairus’ daughter and the healing of a woman with a hemorrhage is a rare miracle account within the gospel. Here we see two desperate representatives of society: one rich, the other poor; one accepted, the other outcast; one familial, the other alone – both beyond natural help. For twelve years Jairus (and his daughter) and the woman had lead such different lives, but now adversity had bound their souls unaware together, and they were both recipients of God’s life-giving power. Compare the faith and fear that both Jairus and the woman exhibited? When has your faith been mingled with fear? Does Jesus’ reply to both of these believers give comfort to you? If so how?
Several of the proverbs in today’s reading deal with proper speech. Solomon has a great deal to say about what we say. The nearly 150 references to the tongue, lips, mouth and so on indicate that proper speech is one of his top concerns. The tongue, says Solomon, can accomplish great good if used wisely but severe damage if used foolishly. In v. 18, Solomon observes, “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrust, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” The proverb promotes thoughtful speech by explicitly comparing the spiritual damage done by the thoughtless “tongue” to the physical damage done by the lethal sword and by contrasting it with one that heals. Give examples of rashly spoken words that cut and thoughtful words that heal. From your experience, which is easier to speak: cutting words or healing words? Why? What can you do to constantly speak wise, healing words?
Friday, May 10 – Mark 6; Psalm 55
In His final tour of Galilee, Jesus continues to confront the powers of darkness, both directly and through His twelve apostles (vv. 7-13). Additionally, he demonstrates His power over creation itself with the feeding of the 5,000 and walking on the water, then calming the storm (vv. 30-52). Mark alone ties together these two miracles stating, “And they were utterly astounded for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened” (vv. 51b-52). Faith was an uncommon commodity among the Lord hometown (vv. 1-6) and sadly even among those closest to Him. What should the disciples have understood about the miracle of Jesus feeding the 5,000? Why do you think their hearts were hardened to these lessons? Do you see any of these reasons in your own life? Explain. Recognizing this, what steps can you take to counteract a hardened heart?
The occasion that inspired the composition of Psalm 55 was David’s betrayal by an intimate friend. We do not know certainly who he was, though some commentators have suggested Ahithophel (see 2 Samuel 15:7-17:23). David prayed that God would deliver him from his plight. He also lamented his distress that a trusted friend had betrayed him, and he voiced confidence in God who redeems His elect. In what way(s) had David been betrayed by his friend? Write down the words and phrases David uses to describe his feelings of betrayal? No doubt the pain when a trusted friend turns on us runs deep. In those times of hurt, anger, and pain how can following David’s words in v. 22 bring relief?