Mark’s gospel devotional: Days 11 – 20

Quick off the Mark: Thinking, praying, and living Mark’s Gospel over thirty quick sessions. Here are days 11 – 20 for you.

Bible Discipleship Evangelism
An image of Matt Britton Matt Britton

Journey through Mark’s Gospel with accompanying devotional content.  Created for those on estates hungry for scripture, these thirty easy-to-follow bible notes help break down the gospel of Mark into manageable chunks of reading.

Whether you’re new to the revolutionary power of Jesus’s words and works, or a seasoned soldier, these bitesize ideas invite you once again to be amazed at the life of God’s son. With helpful thoughts, prayer suggestions, and simple ways to apply the Gospel to your everyday living, this series of devotions helps to refresh, refocus, and renew faith. 

Hello
You could jet off around the world, win an Oscar, earn your millions, be suited-and-booted in designer threads, but to your family you’ll always be that snotty little kid who used to fear the dark. Well, there’s a bit of that going on for Jesus at the beginning of Day 11’s reading. This local-boy-made-good isn’t impressing the old neighbours with his new fancy talk. They think there’s no need to listen to his message because ‘he’s just the local handy man.’ Our story begins on Jesus’ home turf, Nazareth…   

Read
Today’s reading is from Mark 6:1-29.

Think
No more sitting back watching The Miracle Man show – it’s time to step out in faith. As the rubber meets the road (or the sandals meet the stones!) God’s kingdom breaks out. With no time to pack a toothbrush the disciples are thrown head-first into signs and wonders of their own. They’re sent to preach a message to turn back to God before it’s too late. They’ve studied the teacher; now it’s time to take the test. Will people still listen when Jesus isn’t around? Being a friend of Jesus is always a team sport, and today he’s looking for more than armchair supporters. Instead of just reading your Bible you can start practising it. You might want to begin by deliberately being generous to someone or volunteering time for a local worthy cause or some other way of showing God’s kingdom breaking out. Drop the popcorn and join in! 

Pray
Rather than sit back and be an armchair Christian, ask God for opportunities to get out there and share your faith. 

Live It
On top of reading your Bible you can start practising it too! You might want to begin by asking to pray for someone. You could share the wealth next time you find someone worse off than you. It might be something as simple as signing your name on the church ‘tea and coffee rota.’ Whatever you do, do it with a smile on your face. Go on, drop the popcorn, and join in!  

Repeat
The gossips have already begun: who is this Jesus geezer? Is he Elijah or some other prophet from the Old Testament come to kick start Judgment Day? Herod is understandably nervous, as he’s chopped off John the Baptist’s head. Could this be John’s ghost come back to haunt him? One thing’s for sure: if John lost his life for not backing down on the truth, Jesus is sure to follow suit. The seeds are sown. It’s dinner reservations for thousands tomorrow… see you then. 

Say What?
What’s a prophet? In today’s reading we heard that some people thought Jesus was a prophet. The Bible is full of these wonderfully weird and whacky characters known as ‘prophets.’ In the Old Testament we have folk like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Micah, Amos, Jonah, and many, many more. They are famous for predicting the future, but their main job was to call people back to God. In the bible we see prophets warning, directing, encouraging, teaching, interceding, counselling, and scolding. It was often dangerous to be a prophet as they were often mocked, imprisoned, and sometimes killed for bringing the word of God.

Hello
Quick, someone phone UberEATS, there’s a growing football crowd outside who want feeding!! Day 12 is all about Jesus’ most famous miracles. As if feeding 5000 with a small, packed lunch isn’t enough, Jesus goes to walk it all off with a casual stroll on the water. (Now that’s just showing off.) Gobsmacked faces at the ready…  

Read
Today’s reading is from Mark 6:30-56.

Think
Let’s deal with the miracle of the tuna baguette first. What does it all mean? Is Jesus just very nifty at making a meal stretch? Should he enter the next series of MasterChef? Again, we are witnessing God’s kingdom breaking out. The ‘wow factor’ of the story is found in Jesus’ supernatural power but the meaning of the story is found in his compassion. He sees the crowd’s hunger and his heart breaks. He must do something about it out of his love. Always a team player, Jesus invites his disciples into the miracle too: ‘You give them something to eat,’ he says. Jesus says the same to us today. OK, we can’t just rustle up a microwave meal for five thousand with a click of the fingers, but we can donate a tin of beans to a local food bank or buy a homeless person a sandwich. Now let’s look at miracle number two: water-walking. On a boat on the choppy waters, already seasick, the sight of a ghost wasn’t exactly what the disciples needed to settle their iffy tummies. Except this wasn’t a ghost – it was Jesus trying to wear in a new pair of shoes on the Sea of Galilee. Again, the miracle seems to be for other people’s benefits not Jesus’. The panic of the disciples dies out when Jesus walks into the picture. When we are fearful, it affects how we see everything. The disciples saw a ghost. What do you see during life’s storms? Hopelessness? Failure? Panic? Keep your eye on the one who walks on water. Trust the one who can calm your storms. Know him who gets in your boat. 

Pray
Later in the Bible, 1 John 4:18 says, ‘perfect love drives out fear.’ Next time you feel overwhelmed pray for Jesus’ love to calm your fears.

Live It
The disciples didn’t bring much to Jesus. A few loaves and a couple of fish. We might look at ourselves and think we have very little to offer our community. How can little old me change anything? Don’t worry, God isn’t expecting you to save humanity. That’s Jesus’s job. Just bring the little you can and watch him multiply your efforts.  

Repeat
Did you feel like you needed to rub your eyes reading today’s stories? Jesus did what?! But that’s impossible! Yup. Mark’s Gospel is raising the stakes. If you find it hard to believe these stories wait until you reach the end – that’s what Mark seems to be saying. How is this all going to end? Where are we heading? Keep on journeying with us to find out. Bye for now. 

Hello
Something’s gotten the Pharisees’ knickers in a twist. Day 13 begins, and the religious leaders are more interested in clean hands and germs than clean hearts before God. Don’t be surprised if you’re feeling confused, the Pharisees seemed to have a knack for complicating things… 

Read
Today’s reading is from Mark 7:1-23. 

Think
So, it seems the Pharisees won’t sit down to eat without a full certificate in health and hygiene whereas Jesus is more of a ‘lick-the-grease-off-your-fingers’ kind of guy. Is that what Mark’s Gospel is getting at? No. The real issue here is purity or decency or integrity. The Pharisees might look ‘holier-than-thou’ on the outside but inside they are far from God. No amount of scrubbing fingernails or palms is going to wash their hearts clean. The Pharisees had hearts which pumped out bad motivations leaving them with bad blood. They twisted and turned around God’s laws to suit their own needs, leaving the vulnerable to fend for themselves. This isn’t the way of Jesus. The challenge of the gospel is to please God by loving him in what we do and how we do it. True religion isn’t clean hands and fingernails; it’s the opposite. True religion is getting your hands dirty in the mess of the world and trying to do something about it.

Pray
Earlier in the Bible, Psalm 139 says, ‘Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you and lead me along the path of everlasting life’ Ask God to show you if there is anything in your heart that needs cleaning up.  

Live It
Try reading the whole of Psalm 139. 

Repeat
Let’s end today by asking, ‘How healthy is your ticker?’ Do you help people out because you like being needed or do you genuinely want to see them better off? It’s good to examine your motives now and again, otherwise, you too might end up with your knickers in a Pharisee twist. We’ll be back tomorrow. 

Say what?
What do we mean by heart? The bible mentions the heart close to a thousand times. Clearly, it’s important. First, let’s state the obvious: we are not talking about the vital organ that pumps blood throughout the body. Nor are we talking the sentimental gush found in many a love-song. The word ‘heart’ in scripture is a poetic way of describing the core of a person. Emotions. Desires. Longings. In the Old Testament, David is described as ‘a man after God’s own heart.’ In other words, David wished to please God by desiring the same things God desired. Love. Justice. Purity. God is in the business of creating a new heart in us. Filling the core of us with new ideas, new desires, new longings.  So, when Psalm 51 says, ‘Create in me a clean heart…’ we are asking that God would begin to detox all the self-centredness out of us and begin to create a passion for the things that please him. Compassion. Modesty. Honesty.

Hello
Dog crumbs, deafness and dribble is where we’re heading on Day 14 of Mark’s Gospel. Yesterday we got all OCD with those clean-freak Pharisees; today, Jesus gets deep, down, and dirty with the flob of God. Say what?! 

Read
Today’s reading is from Mark 7:24-37.

Think
This is a first for Jesus: he’s a bit reluctant to heal a woman’s daughter at first. Is he too tired? Have his powers been finally outmatched by an illness? And what’s with the name-calling: Dogs! How very rude! No, Jesus isn’t having a bad day at the office – it’s all to do with his mission. Jesus is first sent to preach good news and perform wonders to people of the Jewish faith. But here’s a woman who isn’t Jewish. What’s a Messiah to do? Well, he’s being careful not be distracted into other areas away from his difficult and dangerous task of walking to the cross. But nevertheless, Jesus is impressed by her faith and starts to tear down the old barriers. God isn’t just being revealed to people of the Jewish faith anymore, he’s being revealed to everyone!  

Pray
In the second story today, Jesus helps a deaf man hear. Ask God to help you hear what he is saying to you.   

Live It
Life is never boring when Jesus is around. Things happen that make your jaw drop. So why is religion seen as mind-numbingly dull these days? Write a list of the things you think churches should be doing to match the wow of Jesus.   

Repeat
Jesus orders the deaf man not to tell anyone about how he found his hearing. Perhaps he is buying time to help more people before the inevitable road to the cross? Mark isn’t clear on Jesus’s motives; however, we soon find out word is spreading quick about the famous healer man. See you tomorrow when once again we’re ordering takeout for thousands!   

Say What?
What is a gentile? The Jews divided the world into Jews and Non-Jews. The non-Jews were known as gentiles. Non-Jews were also called ‘dogs’ in New Testament times, hence all the dog-talk between Jesus and the woman in today’s story. Woof woof! 

Hello
Two more loaves, and a few less people than last time. Day 15 begins with Jesus feeding just the four thousand people this time. Are his standards slipping? Nope. Mark is telling us more than simply ‘Jesus did it again’ – he is setting the scene for a section on the disciples’ failure to grasp what was going on. D’oh!   

Read
Today’s reading is from Mark 8:1-21.

During those days another large crowd gathered. Since they had nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples to him and said, 2 “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. 3 If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.”

4 His disciples answered, “But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?”

5 “How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked.

“Seven,” they replied.

6 He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. When he had taken the seven loaves and given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people, and they did so.7 They had a few small fish as well; he gave thanks for them also and told the disciples to distribute them.8 The people ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.9 About four thousand were present. After he had sent them away, 10 he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the region of Dalmanutha.

11 The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven.12 He sighed deeply and said, “Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to it.” 13Then he left them, got back into the boat and crossed to the other side.

The Yeast of the Pharisees and Herod

14The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat.15“Be careful,” Jesus warned them. “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.”

16 They discussed this with one another and said, “It is because we have no bread.”

17Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened?18 Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember? 19When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?”

“Twelve,” they replied.

20“And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?”

They answered, “Seven.”

21He said to them, “Do you still not understand?”
   

Think
Jesus is trying to warn the disciples about something important and their minds jump to, ‘Whose turn is it to pick up the Hovis?’ Double-d’oh! You know that feeling when you’re staring at the diagram for the IKEA bookshelf, and it all seems so easy and yet you feel like jamming the little Allen-key into your own eyeball. Well, that must be how Jesus felt. How can something so simple be causing so many headaches. Why can’t his disciples just get it! The bad yeast he’s warning them about is the diluted vision of God’s kingdom that the Pharisees are teaching. The Pharisees want God all to themselves, looking after their own business – more of a ‘genie-in-a-bottle’ than God. But Jesus’ vision reaches out to everyone: the sick healed, the lonely befriended, the hungry are fed. The feeding of the four thousand isn’t a case of Jesus’ lack of imagination; it’s a sign so important that he repeats the miracle. Why? It demonstrates how Jesus is the food for life (elsewhere in the Bible he’s called, ‘the bread of life’, John 6:35). In other words, Jesus is enough to sustain your life, to satisfy your hunger. It also shows there’s enough of Jesus to go around, we don’t have to hold tight to our good thing in case somebody else gets our portion. Freely we have received, so freely we should give. 

Pray
Jesus never threw the towel in with his disciples, despite them constantly missing the point. He won’t lose his rag with you either. Ask him to help you understand anything you’re struggling with so far in the Bible.  

Live It
Today’s reading is a good warning for us not to get caught up in our own affairs at the expense of caring for others. Keep on the lookout for ways you can help others rather than helping yourself.  

Repeat
The argument between Jesus and the Pharisees today is a sure indicator that trouble is brewing fast. No wonder he wants the disciples to catch up, he knows he won’t be around much longer to explain it all. The road to the cross is edging nearer. Peter catches on fast in tomorrow’s chapter of Mark’s Gospel. See you there! 

Hello
Day 16 is a biggie. We’re slap-bang in the middle of Mark’s Gospel and Jesus asks, ‘Who are people saying I am?’ It’s the million-dollar question even today. What do people think of Jesus? Is he a wise man, or a teacher, or a prophet? Is he deluded, a crazy man? Or is he made up, an imaginary character to be filed next to the Easter bunny? What you make of this Galilean carpenter from 2,000 years ago will seriously affect your life. For Peter… well, his answer is about to score him some serious brownie points! 

Read
Today’s reading is from Mark 8:22-38.  

Think
Well, now it’s all kicking off! Poor old Pete’s been called ‘Satan’ in front of all his mates! And Jesus’ teaching sounds a bit backwards – If you lose your life, you’ll find it? Wait, what? First, let’s clear things up on Peter aka ‘Mr Satan.’ This isn’t trash-talk. Jesus is telling us God’s perspective can look very different to our own. Jesus is saying he’s going to lose, and worst still he’s inviting us to come and lose alongside him. The way God is going to work here will be the very opposite to what people expect. Jesus will suffer and die to conquer our sins. Victory will look like defeat for a while. And Mark’s definition of what it means to be a Christian is not a Sunday afternoon in the park. It’s a march into a world of risk and danger. One where to save your life you need to lose it. This doesn’t mean we’ll all end up nailed to a tree, but it does mean sometimes we will have to sacrifice things that matter most to us: our reputation, a relationship, an ambition, a habit. Whatever stops us from making God famous – that’s what must die in us.

Pray
Sometimes we can tie God’s hands by the unhelpful things we do in our lives, such as gossiping, lying, or aching for the wrong things. Ask God if there are any of these things in your life which need to go.  

Live It
Try living with the opposite attitude. For example, if you’re tempted to slag someone off, do the opposite and say nice things about them instead. Or next time someone cuts you off in traffic, rather than flipping the finger, try speaking out a prayer of blessing for them.

Repeat
What do we expect from a Messiah? Someone to zap all our problems away? Someone cosy and comfortable to give us a cuddle? Jesus gives the word a bit of a facelift as he talks about suffering and death. The second half of Mark’s Gospel leads us down the path of suffering as we follow the Son of God to his death. Walk with us tomorrow as the pace begins to speed up.  

Hello
Have you ever Googled the lyrics to your favourite song? They don’t seem to mean as much without the emotion of the music, do they? At the beginning of Day 17, Jesus transforms his words not with music but light! Proving he’s not away with the fairies talking about God’s kingdom, but that he is speaking and embodying God’s truth, Jesus’ whole body backs his words up by glowing like heaven’s own laser-light show… 

Read
Today’s reading is from Mark 9:1-29. 

Think
It’s almost as if the giant finger from the Lotto ads breaks into our Bible. With a voice booming out from a cloud amp: ‘This is my dearly loved Son. Listen to him.’ God, Elijah, and Moses (two major league players from the Bible’s Old Testament) all point to Jesus as the answer to the world’s prayers. It’s as dramatic as the first time it happened at Jesus’ baptism in the desert. Jesus warns Peter, James, and John to keep schtum until he’s back from the grave, which leaves them puzzled. Not as puzzled, however, as the disciples who are having a bad day at the office down the bottom of the mountain, struggling with a demon domestic. Why can’t they heal this young boy? It’s never been this difficult before. Faith suddenly becomes hard. Caught in the middle of ‘I want to believe but I can’t’, the boy’s dad gropes around for help. In doing so, his moving words, ‘I do believe. Help my unbelief’, become an example of prayer to all of us who struggle with doubts. In the story, Mark is telling us things are going to get harder for Jesus. God’s whole saving package is going to take Jesus to some very dark places. The shadow of the cross looms large.

Pray
Like the man in today’s story who prayed, ‘I believe. Help me with my unbelief’ ask God to help you with any doubts or struggles you might be wrestling with.  

Live It
Doubts are not the enemy of faith. In fact, they can help us draw nearer to God. Bring your scepticism before God and be honest about it. Likewise, choose someone from church, who you trust, to help you talk through your questions.  

Repeat
Sometimes the disciples found following Jesus easy. Other times, they couldn’t grasp what he was saying. Today’s reading is one of those times. It’s as if Jesus is speaking gobbledygook. Faith can be a bit like that. Following Jesus doesn’t always make sense to us.  We all have times when everything makes sense, and times when we are clinging on by our fingernails. The important thing is to be honest about your thoughts and feelings. See you tomorrow!

Hello
Day 18 of our Bible reading kicks off with a bit of testosterone. You know the locker-room banter, who can bench press the most weight…yeah, that sort of thing. Well, the disciples have their own version of one-upmanship going on- ‘My faith is stronger than your faith.’ Real mature, boys… 

Read
Today’s reading is from Mark 9:30-50.

Think
Competition brings out the best and worst in us. At its best it drives us to achieve things we didn’t think possible. At its worst it releases the inner prat! And here’s a classic case of ‘prat attack’ from the disciples. Arguing about who had the biggest faith muscles. Jesus tells them that to impress God, you need to ditch the macho talk and start behaving like a child. In Bible times, Children were not given much respect. Jesus is telling the disciples (and us today) that there is no kudos to be earned following him. Becoming a Christian won’t make us top boy on the estate; it won’t up our followers on social media; people won’t be hanging on our every word. Quite the opposite. Being associated with Jesus often singles us out for ‘special treatment.’ We might become the target of jokes, we might upset people, we might get judged. Following Jesus isn’t the path to Easy Street. Far from it, it’s the road of the cross. 

Pray
Jesus is turning the disciples’ brains inside out.  Before we start feeling sorry for them in their confusion, we need to ask how confused are we? What areas of our thinking need to be turned upside down? Pray that Jesus will help our thoughts match his thoughts. 

Live It
Being a Christian isn’t exactly a step up the social ladder. It can feel like a step down. We’re invited to mix with people who might press our buttons. People we might have little in common with. People who look different, live differently, talk differently to us. The invitation is to push our prejudices aside and get to know them anyway. Not in a ‘grit-your-teeth’ and put up with it- sort of way. Rather a ‘look for the best in them’ and ‘learn from them’ sort of way.    

Repeat
Jesus ends with some graphic stuff: gouging out eyeballs, slicing off feet, unscrewing hands! Does he need to speak to a trained counsellor? Nope. These words are not to be taken literally. He’s using words like a poet might, to highlight the dangers of walking away from God’s best for us. Today he might say something like, ‘If clicking on certain websites lead you into temptation – set up a web filter.’ That’s it for today. The disciples still have a long way to go in learning God’s lessons, so stick with us. Bye! 

Hello
We’re broadcasting live from the river Jordan, former stomping ground of John the Baptist. Whatever happened to that wild-eyed man from the desert? Turns out he ended up in prison before finally losing his head – literally. Why? For openly criticising Herod Antipas’s taste in women (the dirty old dog had married his own brother’s wife!). With that in mind, the Pharisees ask Jesus about his own views on marriage and divorce. Smell a rat? Yup. They’re trying to trap Jesus into saying something that will upset Herod and land his head on a plate, too. Let’s get reading… 

Read
Today’s reading is from Mark 10:1-16. 

Think
When a serious relationship breaks down, we can end up walking away with a limp. Separations, breakups, divorce- whatever you want to call them-leave us devastated and heart-broken. This was never God’s plan. Ideally, relationships are places of mutual trust, love, and submission. Sadly, this isn’t always the reality. So, why is Jesus so opinionated on the matter? Perhaps he’s simply not qualified in couple-counselling. Dig a bit deeper into the issues of his day and we find that there’s more going on here. In this culture women were treated as second class citizens. Men were exploiting women through this. The law of the day permitted husbands to divorce wives for the most trivial things. Yet wives had to stick with their men through thick and thin. Always one to side with the underdog, Jesus isn’t offering relationship advice here, but rather calling for men to do the right thing. To stand up to their responsibilities. He’s calling for men to grow healthy relationships rather than ending them. What does this mean for us today? Again, God’s original plan for you was to flourish in healthy relationships. If you’re walking with a limp caused by a breakup- God wants to walk with you. Equally, today is a reminder that God sides with the broken. To follow Christ is to challenge injustice.   

Pray
Maybe the mention of divorce has brought up all kinds of hurt, fears and brokenness today. Ask God to bring his comfort and healing to you. He knows what you’re going through, and he cares incredibly for you. 

Live It
As you think about broken relationships in your life, is there anybody you need to forgive for causing you hurt? Nobody is saying this is easy stuff. It isn’t. However, in being brave enough to forgive (and that doesn’t excuse their behaviour) you are taking vital first steps in letting go of your own pain. 

Repeat
If any feelings raised by today’s issues seem too hard to cope with, we strongly suggest you get appropriate support. Some people benefit from talking with trained counsellors. Even a chat with some close trusted friends might help. And of course, Jesus is always there – so don’t forget to pray. Well, it’s been a difficult day today. You’ve done brilliant! See you again tomorrow when Jesus answers more difficult questions. 

Hello
Day 20 sees Mr Flash-With-The-Cash meet Mr. Poor-And-Restore. In Bible times people thought that those with piles of dosh must be especially liked by God; wealth was seen as a mark of God’s blessing. But as usual, Jesus turns the thinking upside down by suggesting real blessing comes from helping those less well-off. The Bank of God stores our credit for when we really need it… 

Read
Today’s reading is from Mark 10:17-52. 

Think
Talk about getting the wrong end of the stick! Jesus is heading for Jerusalem to his death and two of the disciples are pushing for the best seats in the house: James on his left; John on his right. Little do they know what they’re really asking: to be nailed up to a tree either side of him! Jesus puts them right. To be first in his kingdom is to be last. Er… say that again, JC? The world’s ideas of what makes someone a VIP is being turned upside down. Those famous in God’s eyes are those who put their own agendas aside and get stuck into helping others. Jesus sums it up like this, ‘For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many’ (Mark 10:45). That’s Christianity in a nutshell: Loving others because God loved us first, demonstrated most powerfully by Jesus’ death on the cross. 

Pray
We learned about Jesus’ attitude to money today. Next time the dosh in your denim adds up, instead of blowing it straight away, ask God to guide you in spending it.  

Live It
There is also a big emphasis on serving others in today’s reading. Think of a way you can serve somebody today. It could be as simple as clearing the chairs away at church.

Repeat
We leave today with Jesus heading for Jerusalem to give his life as a ransom for many. At the cross he will exchange his own life in payment for sin. On the way there is a healing of a blind man. Jesus is about to open our eyes to something incredible too. It’s equally amazing; equally terrifying. If we want what’s on offer, we must follow him. And the journey continues tomorrow. See you then. 

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