This little blurb hardly scratches the surface of a theology of prayer. Nonetheless, let it be a little reminder to heed the call to prayer in your personal life and the life of your church.
The Book of Acts records several instances that show the early church as an example for us to be just as devoted in prayer today as they were then. Of the small band of believers just before Pentecost, it was said, “All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer” (Acts 1:14). Likewise, just after Pentecost, among other things, “they devoted themselves to . . . the prayers” (Acts 2:42). Instead of meeting the practical needs of the saints, the Twelve stated, “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4). When Peter was in prison and the church feared his martyrdom (Acts 12:1–3), “earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church” (Acts 12:5), throughout the night (cf. Acts 12:6–11), and so they were at “the house of Mary . . . where many were gathered together and were praying” (Acts 12:12).
Just as the Bible describes how Christians prayed, it also prescribes how Christians should pray. Since we are God’s house (1 Tim 3:15), we will incur God’s anger if we are not a people of prayer (cf. Isa 56:7; Matt 21:12–13). The church must pray for the needs of its members (Eph 6:18), and the church must pray for unbelievers as well (1 Tim 2:1–7). Men should lead in times of corporate prayer (1 Tim 2:8), and women should participate in prayer as well (1 Cor 11:4–5). The church must pray for the advance of the gospel (Acts 4:29; Col 4:3; Eph 6:19), and, as mentioned above, prayer must be a priority for those lead the church and who speak the Word of God (Acts 6:4).
Has the Spirit has moved in you to be more mindful of prayer due to your consideration of the handful of Scriptures quoted and referenced above? Do you attempt to be with our church during its times of corporate prayer on Sundays and Wednesdays? Not everyone can make it every time the church gathers for prayer, but when considering whether we are really unable to come or not, we must remember that some people find excuses to avoid the work of gathering for prayer, and others find the excuse of a time for prayer to avoid whatever would get in its way. Let’s pray to God that He would help us to fall into the latter of those categories and that He would help our churches to be people of prayer.
Jeremiah 7 records God’s word to Jeremiah on what to say to an Israel in need of a rebuke (Jer 7:1). He was to stand at one of the gates of the temple and call to those who were entering for worship (Jer 7:2). His message was that they should amend their ways so that God would be pleased to let them dwell in His temple for worship (Jer 7:3). They were not to trust in their temple participation as a means of avoiding God’s wrath for their sins (Jer 7:4). With an unrepentant heart, it was no use to go to the temple and vainly repeat, “This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord” (Jer 7:4).
Jeremiah was then to identify their specific sins and how they failed to execute justice in Israel (Jer 7:5). Their sins were to oppress the disadvantaged― foreigners, fatherless, and widows (Jer 7:6). Moreover, they were murdering innocent people and worshipping other gods (Jer 7:6). Renounce these ways, they were told, and God would surely secure their place in land of Israel (Jer 7:7).
Recalling the deceptive words in Jer 7:4, Jeremiah was to point out that their misplaced trust would yield no benefit in light of their theft, murder, adultery, lies, and idolatry (Jer 7:8–9). Any benefit they could have received from their worship in the temple was negated by their abominable behavior (Jer 7:10). Just as bandits and hooligans thieve and then hide with no remorse, so also Israel was treating the temple as a den of robbers where they thought they could flee the consequences of their sins (Jer 7:11). Their actions were like Israel in 1 Samuel 4 when Israel placed its trust in the presence of the Ark of the Covenant to bring them victory against the Philistines. Trusting in an object as if it were a magic charm, their trust was not in the Lord. They lost the battle, the Ark was captured, Shiloh was destroyed, and the high priest and his sons died (Jer 7:12–15; 1 Sam 4:1–11). Being in the temple would no more negate their guilt than the Ark helped Israel in that battle.
Jesus quoted Jer 7:12 in Mark 11:17 and thereby condemned the temple and its salesmen as being a “den of robbers.” If they thought about what Jeremiah had said so long ago, they would have understood that their show of worship was in vain in light of their unrepentant sin. If nothing else, Christ stood in their midst, and they would only challenge His authority (Mark 11:27–28). Eventually, in this same temple, Jesus would be betrayed by Judas to the Jewish leadership for a sum of thirty pieces of silver (Matt 26:14–16; cf. 27:5). This temple and its worship had not improved since Jeremiah’s day. Let us all take note that we truly worship God and do not see our gathering together as a means of excusing a hidden life of sin.
This hymn is based on passage that the sermon is taken from, Mark 1:1–11.
It is sung to the tune of Regent Square Melody (Angels From the Realms of Glory). The text is attributed to Dwight M. Pratt (1888)
See from Bethany advancing
Joyful throngs by Jesus led;
Loud hosannas rend the heavens,
Garments rich His pathway spread;
Shout, ye saints! your triumph sing!
Blessed is the coming king!
Now the sacred gates are lifted,
Zion’s king is passing through.
All the glory of the city
And the temple rise to view;
Zion, shout, your Savior own,
David’s Son, on David’s throne!
King of peace, Jehovah’s chosen!
King with highest glory crowned!
Honored by the hosts of Heaven,
By the earthly Zion owned.
Take Thy scepter, rule the throng
Praising Thee with hallowed song!
Sad, ah, sad the changeful morrow,
Bitter scorn for ardent praise;
They who’d build a throne of glory,
Now a cruel cross upraise.
Yet, O Zion, triumph sing!
Christ betrayed is Savior, king!
The first question concerns Jesus’ whereabouts related to the healing of blindness in Matthew 20:29–34, Mark 10:46–52, and Luke 18:35–43. In Mark 10:46, Jesus enters and then leaves Jericho: “And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho…” (Mark 10:46). Matthew’s parallel only speaks of Jesus’ leaving: “as they went out of Jericho” (Matt 20:29). Luke, however, appears to have Jesus entering Jericho: “As he drew near to Jericho” (Luke 18:35). Is Jesus coming or going from Jericho when He healed the blind?
The answer could very well be that the healing took place as He was leaving (as recorded in Mark 10:46 and Matt 20:29) and that “he drew near” in Luke 18:35 could actually be translated “when he was in the vicinity of Jericho.” The verb (engizō) translated in the ESV as “he drew near” would then be indicating Jesus’ location and not referring to movement. An example of how this verb could function this way is found just afterward in Luke 18:40. After a verb of motion (“Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to him”), then the blind man was indicated to be near Jesus with the same verb in question in Luke 18:35. Thus, Luke 18:40 could be translated “when he was near” instead of “when he came near.” Adding “came” gives the notion of movement, which has already been indicated with another verb. Just as the blind man was near Jesus in Luke 18:40, so also Jesus was near Jericho in Luke 18:35.
It is a bit easier to identify how many men Jesus healed. Matt 20:29–34 records two men being healed, and both Mark 10:46–52 and Luke 18:35–43 record the healing of one. It is not incorrect for Mark and Luke to say that a man was healed of blindness. They simply chose not to report that another was healed as well. Had they added a qualifier such as the word only and said only one man had been healed, then we would have a problem. Mark and Luke simply record the healing of one man for their distinct purposes in writing their Gospels.
 This paragraph summarizes a primary argument in Stanley E. Porter, “‘In the Vicinity of Jericho’: Luke 18:35 in the Light of its Synoptic Parallels’,” Bulletin for Biblical Research 2 (1992): 91–104. This article is available online: https://www.ibr-bbr.org/files/bbr/BBR-1992_06_Porter_JerichoLuke18.pdf. For a summary of all passages together, see Darrell L. Bock, Jesus According to Scripture: Restoring the Portrait from the Gospels (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2002), 309–10.
This hymn is based on passage that the sermon is taken from, Mark 10:17–31.
It is sung to the tune of O God, Our Help in Ages Past, attributed to William Croft (1678–1727)
What can I do to live fore’er?
Commandments I have done.
My good I show, but one thing lacks,
So says my God, the Son.
I see my wealth, my goods, my kin,
And see salvation’s cost.
I set them down to save my soul
And run hard to the cross.
“Who can be saved?” I cry to God
Who hears my desperate plea.
“No works or worth have I to give,
“O, pray, dear God, save me!”
Though trials come, my Father knows.
I leave this world behind.
And both in now and time to come,
All that is His is mine!
As we have seen, Mark is somewhat abbreviated when the Evangelists of the other Gospels give more detail. What follows is an account of all the details given from the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) on the record of the Transfiguration. (John does not record the Transfiguration.) Except for a few words here and there, the words below are quotations from each account. What is apparent is that some authors add certain details that others do not.
After about eight days (Luke 9:28), six to be precise (Matt 17:1; Mark 9:2), Jesus took Peter and James and John and led them up a high mountain by themselves (Matt 17:1; Mark 9:2) to pray (Luke 9:28). While Jesus was praying (Luke 9:29), He was transfigured before them (Matt 17:2; Mark 9:2), altering the appearance of his face (Luke 9:29) so that it shone like the sun (Matt 17:2). His clothes, too, became white as light (Matt 17:1), radiant and intensely white as no one on earth could bleach them (Mark 9:3), and dazzlingly so (Luke 9:29). Then Moses and Elijah appeared (Matt 17:3) in glory (Luke 9:30), Elijah being with Moses (Mark 9:4), and were talking with Jesus (Matt 17;3; Mark 9:4) about his departure which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem (Luke 9:31). Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but, when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him (Luke 9:33).
As Moses and Elijah were parting from Jesus (Luke 9:33), Peter addressed Jesus with reverence as Lord (Matt 17:4), Rabbi (Mark 9:5), or Master (Luke 9:33), and said, “It is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah” (Matt 17:4; Mark 9:5; Luke 9:33). He did not know what he said (Mark 9:6; Luke 9:33) because he and the other two disciples were terrified (Mark 9:6). As Peter was saying these things (Luke 9:34), a bright (Matt 17:5) cloud overshadowed them (Matt 17:5; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:34), and they were afraid as they entered the cloud (Luke 9:34). A voice came out of the cloud and said (Matt 17:5; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:35), “This is my Son, my Chosen One” (Luke 9:35), “my beloved Son” (Matt 17:5; Mark 9:7), “with whom I am well pleased” (Matt 17:5), “listen to him!” (Matt 17:5; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:35). When the voice had spoken (Luke 9:36) and when the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified, but Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear” (Matt 17:6–7). And suddenly (Mark 9:8), when they lifted up their eyes (Matt 17:8), they no longer saw no anyone with them but Jesus alone (Matt 17:8; Mark 9:8; Luke 9:36).
Mark 9:33–37, 42, Matthew 18:1–5, and Luke 9:46–48 give parallel accounts of Jesus’ use of a child to illustrate His teaching to the disciples. These passages differ, however, in which teaching they choose to report. We see at least four teachings from these passages.
Have the faith and humility of a child (Matt 18:3–4).
Speaking of how to “enter the kingdom of heaven,” Jesus says that we must “turn and become like children,” which means that one “humbles himself like this child,” that is, a child that Jesus had called to stand in their midst (Matt 18:3–4; cf. 18:1–2). We must humbly trust in Christ and not ourselves if we hope to enter His kingdom.
Welcome all believers alike with no thought to their social standing (Matt 18:5; Mark 9:36–37).
Jesus speaks of one who “receives one such child in my name” as the one who “receives me” (Matt 18:5; Mark 9:37). The phrase “one such” implies that it was not only children that Jesus admonished His disciples to receive, but all who are like children in some sense. In context, this sense is along the lines of who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven (Matt 18:1). Even if one is like a child (one without social standing and recognition), if such a one bears the name of Jesus (“receives…in my name”), then we as believers should seek to welcome and serve such a one, not figure out whether we are ranked higher than such a person in the coming kingdom of God. And, by serving all believers, and especially those who are little in the eyes of men, we are thereby evaluated by God to be the greatest in His kingdom (Matt 18:4; cf. also James 2:1–10).
To welcome all believers without discrimination is to welcome Jesus and, therefore, His Father (Matt 18:5; Mark 9:36–37; Luke 9:48).
One of the primary ways we show our love for God is to show our love for His people. By welcoming those who bear His name, it is as if we were welcoming Jesus Himself (Matt 18:5; Mark 9:37a; Luke 9:48a), and to welcome Jesus is to welcome His Father, the One who sent Him on our behalf (Mark 9:37b; Luke 9:48b). How we treat others is a reflection of how we treat God Himself (cf. also Matt 25:31–46).
Causing a believing child to sin is great sin (Matt 18:6; Mark 9:42).
If we allow our pride to dismiss other believers and provoke them to sin, we commit great sin ourselves (Matt 18:8; Mark 9:42; cf. 9:38–41). Rather, we should support one another and strive for unity instead of thinking that we alone our righteous in our ways (cf. also John 13:34–35 and Rom 15:7).
Among other things we do in prayer (praise God, confess sin, etc.), prayer involves bringing certain requests before God, and if so granted, they become part of the means whereby He carries out His decreed will.
Consider a variety of amazing answers to prayer. First, Abraham prayed for Abimelech and the women in his royal house to be healed: “Then Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech, and also healed his wife and female slaves so that they bore children” (Gen 20:17; cf. 20:7, 18). Second, God answered the prayers of Hannah and Zechariah in giving children to their families when they previously had none (1 Sam 1:10, 20; Luke 1:13). The answer to Zechariah’s prayer was particularly amazing because Elizabeth was “advanced in years” (Luke 1:7, 18), a phrase used of Sarah who likewise bore a son in her old age, ninety years old (Gen 18:11; cf. 17:17)! Third, perhaps more well-known is the prayer of Elijah who prayed for the rain to stop and start again during the days of wicked King Ahab (James 5:17–18; cf. 1 Kgs 17:1; 18:42). Fourth, the early church prayed for Peter’s rescue from jail and did not believe it at first when their prayers were answered (Acts 12:5, 12, 14–15)! Fifth, despite his immorality and vengeance, Samson prayed for water and was miraculously granted a spring from a rock just after killing 1,000 men with the jawbone of a donkey (Judges 15:18–19). He showed his pride after the prayer’s answer by naming the place of water En-hakkore, “the spring of him who called” (Judges 15:19). He named it after himself who prayed and did not even acknowledge God as the One to answer to prayer!
While we are not told to expect miracles today, it is not to say that they cannot happen. Jesus once stated, “All things are possible for one who believes” (Mark 9:23) and later clarified that such things come about by prayer (Mark 9:29). God is the one who makes impossible possible as He chooses to answer our prayers.
So how do we pray for the impossible to become possible? First, any request we make before God should be guided by Scripture. Second, we should realize that sometimes God chooses not to answer our prayer because He has something better in mind for our future, even if it is simply to teach us to go to Him in prayer. Third, when we pray, we should not doubt how He can answer our prayers (Mark 11:23–24). Fourth, if we do doubt, we should ask God to give us the faith we need to pray for an amazing answer to prayer. The father of a demon-possessed boy did just this and saw Jesus heal his son (Mark 9:24–25).
As we get ready to preach through Mark, here is a helpful overview of his gospel.
Mark records in sixteen chapters “the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1). This opening verse introduces major themes in the book―Jesus as the Christ and the Son of God.
After introducing the beginnings of Jesus by speaking of John the Baptist, Jesus’ baptism, and Jesus’ temptation (Mark 1:1–13), Mark gives a summary statement of what we find Jesus doing throughout the book: “Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God” (Mark 1:14–15).
Beginning with the call of four disciples (Mark 1:16–20), Mark records Jesus’ initial ministry in Galilee (Mark 1:16–3:6) and then summarizes by noting the region’s reaction to Him―people swarming to Him from all directions to be healed from disease and demons (Mark 3:7–12). Beginning his next section with the appointment of the twelve apostles (Mark 3:13–19), Mark then records Jesus’ continuing ministry in Galilee (Mark 3:20–5:43). Through the miracles and teaching of Jesus, both sections show Jesus to be the Christ and Son of God.
After coming back to his hometown Nazareth (Mark 6:1–6), Mark again begins with a focus on Jesus’ disciples and records the continuing ministry of Jesus (Mark 6:7–8:26). The disciples see, but not clearly, that Jesus is the Christ (Mark 8:27–30; cf. 8:22–26), a climactic confession that comes almost exactly halfway through Mark’s gospel. As Jesus continues to travel and teach to Galilee and the surrounding regions (Mark 8:27–10:52), Mark emphasizes through Jesus’ words that being a disciple of Jesus means understanding who He is (cf. Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:32–34) and losing one’s life by giving it away to live for Him (Mark 8:34–38; 9:35–37; 10:42–45).
Opposition mounts against Jesus as he teaches in Jerusalem (Mark 11:1–13:37), which leads to the record of events two days before His death (Mark 14:1–72), including the Jewish leadership’s rejection of Jesus’ claim to be the Christ and Son of God (Mark 14:61–64). After His trial before Pilate, Jesus is crucified and buried (Mark 15:1–47). Just after Jesus’ death, a Roman centurion confesses what Mark desired all his Roman readers to confess: “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39). The book ends by leaving the reader to wonder with the women at the emptiness of Jesus’ tomb after His resurrection (Mark 16:1–8).
As one can see, two dominant themes in Mark are who Jesus is (the Christ and the Son of God) and the cost that comes with being His disciple (suffering). As we study Mark together, may God help us to truly understand Jesus and genuinely follow Him.
-This outline of Mark more or less follows pp. 169–72 in D. A. Carson and Douglas J. Moo’s An Introduction to the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005).
Pastor David Huffstutler
Pastor Huffstutler regularly writes articles for our Sunday bulletin. See his bio on our pastoral bio page.