Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Sabbath School Insights No. 9, Qtr 2-05

<center><bold>Special Insights No. 9


<bold>Second Quarter 2005 Adult Sabbath School Lessons

“Jesus Through the Eyes of Mark”

(Produced by the editorial board of the 1888 Message Study Committee)</bold>

<bold>Insights to Lesson 9: “Last Days in the Temple”</bold>

</center>Our lesson deals with this basic issue: “How did Christ
respond to those who questioned His authority?” But it really involves
much more. It goes to the heart of what constitutes true religion and
faith. It contrasts what God’s people believed religion and faith were
and what Jesus could not leave unsaid. Although, from the beginning
Jesus had been responding to the questions and challenges of the
Jewish leaders, now at the end of His ministry Jesus was intent on
clarifying what is the heart of the gospel.

Before we examine the points of our study, it is important to
understand how this opposition from the different Jewish groups enters
our lives today. Ellen White makes a most startling connection.

“The spirit of Pharisaism is the spirit of human nature; and as the
Saviour showed the contrast between His own spirit and methods and
those of the rabbis, His teaching is equally applicable to the people
of all time” (<italic>Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing</italic>, p.

Too often we speak of the Pharisees as if they are uniquely
unspiritual and opposed to God’s ways. But are we any different? More
importantly, we see our need of Christ when we recognize ourselves in
the Pharisees when we see the depths of sin and its deceptiveness.
This is the meaning of corporate repentance, which brings true
reformation and unity within the body of Christ.

<bold>Mark 11:27-33: The Question of Authority

</bold>The Jewish leaders were upset with Jesus for questioning
<italic>their</italic> authority, yet they countered by questioning
<italic>His</italic>. The “politically correct” thing to do would have
been along the line of “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say
it.” But Jesus makes it clear that the integrity of His Father’s house
is foremost in His mind. All His life He has lived by the principle of
doing only what He sees His Father do. The Pharisees did not. Are we
focused on the integrity of our Father? Are we in tune with what our
Heavenly Father is doing? The people thought the Pharisees were. How
can we know our own hearts?

<bold>Mark 12:1-12: The Question of Stewardship

</bold>The parable of the wicked tenants reveals the basis for Jesus’
cleansing of the temple. The Pharisees were placing their wants and
desires before those of God, which is idolatry. This is exactly what
the children of Israel struggled with in the wilderness (see Ex. 17:7;
32:1ff.). Yet did they see that they were rejecting God? What did it
take for them to see their condition?

<bold>Mark 12:13-27: Caesar and God and the Resurrection

</bold>Jesus had initiated the cleansing of the temple and told the
parable of the wicked tenants. The Jewish leaders had asked whom He
thought He was to say and do those things. Now, as an attempt to
reclaim their honor, they begin quizzing Him. The “hard” questions of
paying taxes and the resurrection seem trite when compared to Jesus’
concerns. This is reminiscent of the woman at the well (John 4:16-24)
who asked a theological question about where to worship to deflect the
conviction of Jesus’ offer of cleansing her heart. How often we fail
to gather the blessings of God because of distractions of our own
creation. But as with the woman, Jesus waits patiently in supreme
confidence of the power of the truth. May we grasp His faith and rest
in His power to save to the uttermost.

<bold>Mark 12:28-34: The Greatest Commandment

</bold>The scribe seems to break ranks with the Jewish leaders. He
really wants to know what is most important. Jesus is quick not only
to answer but to encourage him. But oh what he must have paid when the
Jewish leaders confronted him later!

<bold>Mark 12:35-40: Whose Son Is Christ?

</bold>These and the following texts are not discussed in our
quarterly, but they bear greatly upon the lessons Jesus is giving
concerning the Jewish leaders (and us!). It was believed that the
Messiah was to be the son of David, suggesting he would be a political
Savior. When Jesus speaks He shows that David called the Messiah Lord,
thus revealing that the One to come was both God and man. This truth
addresses the questioning of Jesus’ authority spoken of earlier. His
authority for His work is that He<italic>is</italic> the Messiah. He
is not a political leader as the Jewish leaders had taught. He is
exactly what had been promised, Emmanuel, God with us. Only such a
realization of this truth could save them and give them true rest.

<bold>Mark 12:41-44: The Widow’s Mite

</bold>Jesus speaks of the danger of the Pharisees (12:38-40)
including the devouring of widow’s houses. These leaders were not paid
by the state. They were dependent upon the hospitality of the people.
Jesus was pointing out their exploitation of the generosity of the
people. He showed that too many of their prayers were to impress the
people of their piety to gain their confidence. Yet Jesus responds by
sitting and watching as different ones come to the temple to give
their offerings. It is a widow (do we catch the irony) whom Jesus
presents to his disciples. Her sacrifice (1/64th of a common laborer’s
daily wage) is the most worthy offering because of the condition of
the giver’s heart. Notice she believes in and supports the temple to
the extent of giving her all. Yet it is this submission to God’s
authority that is contrasted with that of the Pharisees. This has been
God’s plea to us for a very long time.

“Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my
commands always, so that I might go well with them and their children
forever!” (Deut. 5:28).

Jesus spoke hard things for the ears of the people. Hard not because
they were difficult to comprehend, but hard to accept if the people
were to continue as they were. The Laodicean message is most powerful
and will not fail to affect every one. Yet it is not a depressing
message. Note the following statement and how it coincides with what
Jesus said to Simon at his feast (Luke 7:4) concerning Mary and her
love for Him.

“The Laodicean message must be proclaimed with power; for now it is
especially applicable. . . . Not to see our own deformity <italic>is
not to see the beauty of Christ’s character</italic>. When we are
fully awake to our own sinfulness, <italic>we shall appreciate
Christ</italic>. . . . Not to see the marked contrast between Christ
and ourselves <italic>is not to know ourselves</italic>. <italic>He
who does not abhor himself cannot understand the meaning of
redemption</italic>” (<italic>Advent Review and Sabbath
Herald</italic>, Sept. 25, 1900; emphasis supplied).

Christ’s call is for us to see what Mary saw in herself, her
sinfulness and total helplessness to change. Then we too will have the
heart of Mary as she poured out her gratefulness to her Savior. Such
an experience would “lighten the whole earth with the glory of God.”

<flushright>--<italic>Robert Van Ornam



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Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Sabbath School Insights No. 8, Qtr 2-05

<center><bold>Special Insights No. 8


<bold>Second Quarter 2005 Adult Sabbath School Lessons

“Jesus Through the Eyes of Mark”

(Produced by the editorial board of the 1888 Message Study Committee)</bold>

<bold>Insights to Lesson 8: “The Final Journey”</bold>

</center>It is God’s blessing that we are given these 13 weeks of
lessons from Mark. They are a precious opportunity to read and mark
your Bible, and “learn” the story in this clear, briefly worded
narrative. It seems quite certain that Gospel-writing Mark was the
youngest of the four; he simply pours out the truth so simply that
through his succinct words we “see” Jesus more clearly and vividly
than if we had an actual on-the-spot video to watch.

The reason: as you read and ponder the text, the Holy Spirit acts as a
projector flashing the scenes on the screen of your receptive mind.
Yes, the pictures your mind’s eye see of Jesus and the others will be
so accurate that you will recognize them when finally you meet them in
the New Jerusalem. No video or movie can be so clear! READ YOUR BIBLE.

In teaching the lesson you may find it an effective method simply to
read the Bible text clearly, one verse at a time. If as a teacher you
have realized your heart-emptiness without the special gift of the
Holy Spirit; and if you have asked for that gift, you can be sure that
He will “bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever” you have
diligently studied (cf. John 14:26). You will illuminate each verse.
We can remember that there is no limit to the usefulness of one who
lays aside <italic>s-e-l-f</italic> and makes room for the Holy Spirit
to work.

Let your prayer be that the Lord use you to help someone in your class
to “see” Jesus as not only “the Savior of the world” (Johm 4:42), but
his/her Best Friend and Savior now. The universal Bible testimony is
that He will not let you down as a teacher. According to Luke 11:5-10,
there is no prayer the Lord delights more to answer than the prayer of
the empty-pipe praying to be a channel to convey water of life to
someone thirsty, or the prayer of the chef to provide bread for
someone hungry.

And let me add my tiny bit of personal testimony: when I have felt
most unworthy to teach a Sabbath School Class or preach a sermon, the
dear Lord has been gracious to add a blessing always more than my tiny
cup could hold. Your people aren’t hungry to see your learning or
intellectual charm; they are hungry to see some live-wire contact
between Scripture text and the living demonstration of the Holy
Spirit. That will be memorable for them to see and hear! Their hearts
will tingle.

Now we join Jesus on His last fateful journey to Jerusalem . . . to be
disfellowshipped by the true church of His day (remember, up until the
Temple veil is rent, it is still the Temple of God’s true people).
It’s a terrible feeling to be disfellowshipped by the true church.
What hurt Jesus the most was not the physical pain of crucifixion but
the awful sense of being “forsaken” by His Father and by His people.
When we come to the story of the cross we will see how He worked His
way by faith from that “forsakenness” to joyous at-one-ment. If you
ever feel “forsaken,” you can retrace <italic>His</italic> steps into
the sunlight of the Father’s smile where you can see it too, by faith.

Think how on this final journey His heart is heavy with serious
thought! Yet James and John (with their mother) are childishly
dreaming of getting the top posts in the glorious kingdom coming.
Patiently He told them that it wasn’t His to give those top jobs to
anyone. They’re “not Mine to give, but . . . for whom it is prepared”
(10:35-40). For whom are those places “prepared”?

Our minds search. We recall that some will live through the great time
of trouble “without a mediator” (<italic>the Great
Controversy</italic>, p. 425) after the heavenly sanctuary has closed.
If so, they are in the world today quietly bearing the cross with
Jesus, humble people you and I might easily miss. The Gospel of Mark
is a prelude to living in 2005 A.D. Don’t desire the top job; but do
be faithful now.

What lesson can you present to your class regarding the meek and lowly
Jesus entering Jerusalem in royal Messiah-honor? His PR (public
relations) strategy was professional; He didn’t want to die in
obscurity. He wanted that cross to be lifted up so high that all would
see what was happening. Only then could He “draw all to Himself” (John
12:32). Not self-aggrandizement but soul-saving was His burden.

We talk longingly of the great days of the “loud cry” yet to follow
our “latter rain.” God’s PR plans will be perfect when Christ’s
mission meets its final fulfillment before probation closes. But just
as the disciples were greatly disappointed in how “Palm Sunday” led to
crucifixion, so we may be surprised how the true “loud cry” that
“lightens the earth with glory” may be a very self-humbling experience
for all of God’s true people. Ellen White pinpoints the initial
outpouring of the “latter rain” as the coming of the 1888 message of
Christ’s righteousness; our dear brethren had expected it to be great
emotional upheavals that would be like spiritual thunderstorms. They
were taken by surprise--it turned out to be humble, quiet Bible
studies on Romans and Galatians by two unworthy young “messengers”
with undiscerned “heavenly credentials.” But the two let in opened
windows of “new light” which to the old men became bitterly unwelcome.

In deep discernment, Ellen White perceived what was happening.
Calvary’s week was being re-played. Over a hundred times the next few
years she likened the reception which that “most precious message”
received as being a re-play of how the Jews received their Messiah.
The last week of Jesus’ life that we are studying this week becomes
therefore a vital “present truth.”

Be sure your class participants understand the Good News
encouragements in the account of the fig tree that was “cursed” (Mark
11:12-14, 20-26). Only a day after Jesus cursed it, it “withered
away.” Sad; but grasp the positive thing Jesus said. If He
<italic>curses</italic> a tree and it dies in 24 hours, if you through
earnest prayer will <italic>bless</italic> a problem or frustration in
your life for Him, it too will “wither away.” In other words, your
prayers for blessings will be as dramatically answered as was Jesus’
prayer for a curse on that tree. (But in your great rejoicing, be
humble as you contemplate how little “fruit” your tree has borne, and
let’s be very careful about flouting “nothing but leaves” which elicit
“amens” from the congregation but have no lasting substance.)

But a prayer that has <italic>apparently</italic> been unanswered must
not be forgotten. “Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath
great recompense of reward” (Heb. 10:35) if for no other reason than
this: the Father remembers that prayer better than you do. It will be
answered for good when you may least expect it.

Note how our Lesson mentions that Jesus “confronted” the leaders of
His day. It asks: “Are there ever times when we, too, should challenge
the establishment?” Coming from the editor of our church paper, the
<italic>Review,</italic> this question is not trivial nonsense. Just
be sure you’re right before you challenge God-ordained leaders, but
remember that the time <italic>may</italic> come when faithfulness to
Jesus will require a challenge to leadership. <italic>Keep step with
Him! </italic>You, too, be crucified with Him.

<flushright>--<italic>Robert J. Wieland</italic>



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Thursday, May 12, 2005

Teaching the Disciples

Second Quarter 2005 Adult Sabbath School Lessons:
Jesus Through the Eyes of Mark
Insights to Lesson 7
Teaching the Disciples
May 7-13

(Produced by the 1888 Message Study Committee)

Conflict between faith and unbelief is observed in the various experiences of the people to whom our attention is directed in this week’s lesson. We observe this conflict in the behavior of Christ’s disciples, in the principles of marriage and divorce, and in the attempt to serve both God and mammon. In contrast, faith is best demonstrated by the simplicity and trust of children that Christ drew to Himself. Let us learn from what Jesus taught His disciples. We begin our lesson with:

A Public Failure and a Public Demonstration

Jesus gave His disciples authority to cast out devils previous to the situation in which they found themselves when they were unable to do anything helpful for a demon possessed boy (Mark 9:14-18). Nine disciples were clueless as to why they could not exercise power that had been given to them by Jesus (9:28; 6:7, 13).

The child had been deprived of abilities to speak and to hear. He was often convulsed with violent seizures. And the devils now attempt to destroy him (9:18, 20-22). Because God’s power was absent during this time of humiliating defeat, the nine did that which they knew best, which was to argue with their opponents (9:16).

When Jesus came upon the scene He emphasized the characteristic cause of all spiritual failure--lack of faith in God (cf. 9:19, 23). Christ’s rhetorical questions to His disciples, and to the crowd, addressed the disciples’ spiritual dullness, and by way of application ours also (v. 19). Jesus acts with power where the nine had failed miserably.

The father’s words, “If You can do anything, . . ,” indicate the disciples’ inability to expel the demons (vss. 18, 22). Consequently, this incompetence shook the father’s faith in Christ’s ability to deliver his son. Jesus turned aside the father’s words of doubt with His own conditional proposition: “If you can believe . . .” “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes” (v. 23). Faith never sets conditions or limits on God’s power. The father’s response was immediate (euthys). He declared his faith while acknowledging his weakness: “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief” (v. 24).

A spiritual lesson must be drawn from this experience. Our condition may be as helpless as that of the hopeless father; yet if we will cast ourselves at Christ’s feet with the father’s cry, “Lord, I believe; help Thou mine unbelief” we can never perish--never (see The Desire of Ages, p. 429). Compare this thought with the following from Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, pp. 309-310:

“The powers of darkness gather about the soul and shut Jesus from our sight, and at times we can only wait in sorrow and amazement until the cloud passes over. These seasons are sometimes terrible. Hope seems to fail, and despair seizes upon us. In these dreadful hours we must learn to trust, to depend solely upon the merits of the atonement, and in all our helpless unworthiness cast ourselves upon the merits of the crucified and risen Saviour. We shall never perish while we do this--never!” (emphasis in the original).

The lesson to be learned is this: “the faith of Jesus” is always triumphant. And He will never turn away from the heart-felt cry of the weak and distressed. Never. This lesson will be learned, finally, by the church called Laodicea. She will “buy” “without money and without price” the “gold tried in the fire,” which is the faith of Jesus. We next move to the lesson of “the faith of Jesus” as exhibited in those only who are enabled to “see” and thus to “enter” the kingdom of God (Mark 9:33-50).

True Greatness: Childlike Faith

Jesus informed His disciples that He would be crucified and afterward would arise from the grave. The twelve could not grasp what He said. Those unwelcome dreadful declarations did not fit into their understanding about the Messiah. And they were not about to ask what He meant by His words. Mark wrote that they “were afraid to ask Him” (9:31, 32). They were not going to let truth inform their misunderstanding.

Ignoring Christ’s declaration about His soon coming death, the disciples became agitated over who among them was the greatest. They thought to hide their verbal wrangling from Jesus. They could not. When He asked them about their discussion they refused to answer (vv. 33, 34). Later, when James and John got the jump on the rest of the disciples, by sending their mother to lobby Jesus into letting her sons have the highest position in the kingdom, the ten were livid with anger (see Matt. 20:20-24).

In stark contrast to the disciple’s behavior is the faith of children. Twice Jesus used children to illustrate the principles of His kingdom and entrance therein (Mark 9:37; 10:14). In His first lesson, Jesus sought to draw out from His disciples the bigotry and exclusiveness attending their ideas of greatness. Jesus took a child in His arms and said, “Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me” (9:37).

John was not about to receive this kind of message. In the next verse we read his words by which he distracted his attention from the worrisome message he was hearing: “Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow US casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow US” (9:38, emphasis supplied). There is danger, always, in the attempt to suppress the work of others because they are not one of “us.” They may not say things just like we say them, so we may be tempted to think it best to shut them out. This conduct usually comes from an unseen Laodicean spiritual pride in thinking we are greater than others in understanding truth, even the “most precious message” sent from heaven. Lord, anoint our eyes with your holy “eye salve” that we may see.

The next recorded time that Jesus took children to Himself was when, and because, His chosen teachers attempted to keep them away (10:13). His rebuke was fast in coming. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it” (vss. 14, 15). We must be born from above before we can “see” and “enter” God’s kingdom (see John 3:3, 5). And we must be clothed with Christ’s robe of righteousness, for no one shall see God without His holiness (Heb. 12:14).

The faith of Jesus is best demonstrated in the experience of a little child. We are not to be childish and think we are greater than others. Instead, we are to be childlike--depending on Jesus alone and learning as children do by that faith which works though love, esteeming others better than ourselves. This is the essence of true greatness. This is the experiential result of the message of 1888. Are we listening? Are we learning? Do we truly believe?

A Discussion on Divorce

We need to know that God hates divorce. He knows what it does to those who go through this heart wrenching living death experience. “‘For the LORD God of Israel says that He hates divorce, for it covers one’s garment with violence,’ says the LORD of hosts. ‘Therefore take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously’” (Mal. 2:16).

Legal experts attempted to turn people away from Jesus and also to get Him into trouble either with the people or with Herod, for he had divorced his wife and married his older half-brother’s wife (Mark 6:18). Jesus skirted their purposes of legal entrapment, expediency, and their interpretation of the rule of law, and went directly to the principle as outlined in Genesis 1 and 2 (see Mark 10:5-9).

More than politics were involved in that trick question recorded in Mark 10:2. The verb indicates that the Pharisees “kept testing Him,” as though they hoped to provoke Him to say something incriminating. Divorce was a very controversial subject among Jewish rabbis. No matter the answer Jesus should give, He would be sure to displease somebody. Hopefully this would give opportunity to arrest Him, so thought His enemies.

As He usually did, whatever the constant current controversial conundrum unanswered satisfactorily by anyone, Jesus focused attention on the Word of God (Mark 10:3). In this case it was the Law of Moses in Deuteronomy 24:1-4. As you study this passage, it is important to note two facts. First, it was the man who divorced the wife, not the wife who divorced the husband; for women did not have this prerogative at that time. Second, the official “bill of divorcement” was given to the wife in order for her to reveal her status and to assure any prospective husband that she was indeed free to remarry. Apart from the giving of this document, the only other requirement was that the woman not return to her first husband if her second husband also divorced her. Among Jews, the question was not, “May a divorced woman marry again?” because remarriage was permitted and even expected. The big question was, “What are the legal grounds for a man to divorce his wife?”

The Law of Moses did not give adultery as grounds for divorce; for, in Israel, the adulterer and adulteress were to be stoned to death (Deut. 22:22; Lev. 20:10; also see John 8:1–11). Jesus explained that Moses gave the divorce law because of the selfishness of the human heart. The law protected the wife by restraining the husband from impulsively divorcing her and abusing her like an unwanted piece of furniture. Without a bill of divorcement, a woman could easily become a social outcast and be treated like a harlot. No man would want to marry her, and she would be left defenseless and destitute.

By giving this commandment to Israel, God did not encourage divorce, nor put His approval on it. Rather, He sought to restrain men and make it more difficult for them to dismiss their wives. He put sufficient regulations around divorce so wives would not become victims of their husbands’ whims.

Jesus then took those legal experts of His time back beyond the Law of Moses to the record of the original Creation (Gen 1:27; 2:21–25). It was Jesus who established marriage; and He has the right to make the rules. According to Scripture, marriage is between a man and a woman, not two men or two women; and the relationship is sacred and permanent. It is the most intimate union in the human race, for the two become one flesh. And further it illustrates for us the close spiritual union that Jesus wants to have with His bride, the church.

While the spiritual element is vitally important in marriage, the emphasis here is that marriage is a physical union: the two become one flesh, not one spirit. Since marriage is a physical union, only a physical cause can break it--either death (Rom. 7:1–3) or fornication (Matt. 5:32; 19:9).

Does there have to be divorce? From today’s culture the answer is a cacophonous yes. Independence from God produces independence in marriage. There is a cure, however, especially for these last days. A heaven-sent message, believed, reconciles. God was in Christ “reconciling the world to Himself” (2 Cor. 5:19) and He will bring about reconciliation between husband and wife who believe the gospel of Christ, along with children and parents (see Mal. 4:5, 6).

Mere Profession and Many Possessions

Riches in and of themselves are not evil. Many believing Christians are, and were, very wealthy. One great example from history is Abraham, father of the faithful. He possessed both earthly and heavenly riches. Problems stemming from the love of worldly possessions and its accompanying greediness that takes possession of its possessor will result in his rejection of God’s message. In this last experience of this week’s lesson we learn that the ruler who was both young and rich loved Jesus, but he loved his earthly possessions much more (Mark 10:17-31). Because of his misplaced love he threw over all the riches of heaven, embodied in Christ, for a comparatively paltry sum with its unstable security.

As it was in the days of Christ on earth, so it is today. In the gospel darkness of this age of popular “prosperity” preaching, people are led to believe the falsehood that health and material things are evidence of God’s special blessing and to the concomitant lie that if you do not have health and prosperity you are in some way inferior to “super” Christians who do. Mere profession, with many possessions, is very dangerous. This is because there is no possibility of salvation in this configuration, as the rich young ruler realized. This concept must not be lost as it is applied spiritually in the rebuke by the “True Witness” to Laodicea (Rev. 3:17). Mere profession and great religious possessions give evidence of deadness within. The sepulcher may be whitewashed as in days of old, but it is still filled with the skeleton of uncleanness and unrighteousness.

May we learn the lesson the rich young ruler refused. May we heed the “counsel of the True Witness” as He invites us to receive from Him the richness of His faith, His robe of righteousness and His Spirit (Rev. 3:18). This is the beginning of that message that will lay our glory in the dust so that God’s glorious gospel of righteousness may lighten the world with its splendor (Rev. 18:1). This message is summed up in the following quotation:

“What is justification by faith? It is the work of God in laying the glory of man in the dust, and doing for man that which it is not in his power to do for himself (Special Testimonies to Ministers and Workers, Series A, No. 9, 1897, pp. 61, 62; Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 456).

This is a message of hope for those who are as helpless as were the nine disciples when they encountered the power the prince of darkness. If we have lost the power of God in our lives; if we wrangle over doctrine; if we are argue about who is the greatest, let God do His work of justification in laying our glory in the dust and doing for us that which we are incapable to do for ourselves. Let’s pray for the simplicity and love and faith of a little child; for those childlike characteristics such of faith and hope and love may be exhibited in and through us. This is the faith of Jesus that we are to cherish and to keep.

--Gerald L. Finneman

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Sabbath School Insights No. 6, Qtr 2-05

Special Insights No. 6

Second Quarter 2005 Adult Sabbath School Lessons

“Jesus Through the Eyes of Mark”

(Produced by the editorial board of the 1888 Message Study Committee)

Insights to Lesson 6: “The Passion Predicted”

This week’s lesson opens with another example of Jesus the
Good Shepherd seeking out one of His lost sheep. Christ left Capernaum
to find seclusion and rest in the country around Tyre and Sidon. The
Jews hated these people who were of the old Canaanitish race. It is
ironic that had the children of Israel followed God’s command on entry
to Canaan, this problem would have been completely abolished.
Regardless, the Cananitish woman must have heard something about Jesus
because she determined that He was the only hope for her besieged
daughter. Though she must have thought she was seeking after Him,
Ellen G. White in The Desire of Ages tells us that
“He placed Himself in her path” (p. 400).

Here is a lesson we can learn. Because we can imply from the
circumstances that someone had told her about Jesus, we can also imply
that the Holy Spirit was working on her heart to not give up hope.
This is a demonstration of the model Christ gave His disciples of how
the gospel is to be spread. The Great Commission is to “go tell” the
gospel. The Holy Spirit works on the heart in ways humans are not to
witness. Then, when Providence deems the timing to be perfect, the
individual is confronted with the real Christ. The faith may be
tested, but we may trust that decision is always preceded with
sufficient information to make the step of faith a choice, not a
reckless leap in the dark.

The woman must overcome her fear of the prejudice of the Jews
surrounding Jesus in order to make her desperate plea for help.
Christ’s initial reaction seems to justify those fears.
Uncharacteristically, He ignores her. When she pressed her case, the
disciples “supposed that the prejudice of the Jews against the
Canaanites was pleasing to Him” (ibid.).

It is tempting to believe that Christ was using Divine omniscience to
perceive the strength of her faith. To believe that is to disbelieve
Philippians 2, which tells us that He laid aside those prerogatives,
and Christ’s own statement, “I can of Mine own self to nothing.” (John
5:30, KJV). How the Spirit prompted Him we don’t know, but the same
privilege is available to those who ask for such guidance in humble

Christ’s response, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house
of Israel,” seems on the surface to be an outright lie. But we need to
understand how God defines the house of Israel. We are given His
definition in Galatians 3:29: “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye
Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (KJV). E. J.
Waggoner explains the concept: “All are alike sinners, and all are
saved in the same way. They who would make a distinction on the ground
of nationality, claiming that there is something different for the Jew
than for the Gentile, might just as well make a difference on the
ground of sex, claiming that women cannot be saved in the same way and
at the same time as men” (The Glad Tidings, p. 84).

Waggoner further explains that the “promise” spoken by God to Abraham
concerned his offspring, or heir. Noting that the promise language in
Genesis contemplated Christ as the “Offspring,” Waggoner states that
“God’s purpose is to ‘gather together in one all things in Christ’”
(Eph. 1:10, KJV; ibid., p. 85).

Now that we have defined the House of Israel, we can better understand
the conversation between Christ and the woman. Ignoring His first
comment, the women presses her case, and to demonstrate her
helplessness she “came and fell at His feet” (Mark 7:25, KJV). The Jew
would never display such an undignified position in public. Again,
Christ’s response seems to support the prevailing prejudice: “Let the
children first be filled: for it is not meet to take the children’s
bread, and cast it unto the dogs.”

In making this statement, Jesus spoke the truth about the privileges
that had been bestowed on the children of Israel. They had been given
special gifts and advantages which they had misinterpreted as evidence
of their superiority above all others. If we think this lesson applies
only to ancient Israel we misunderstand the definition of “Israel”
discussed above. Privilege and advantage from God are always
accompanied by responsibility.

This heathen woman was beginning to grasp this concept when she
responded to Christ “Yes, Lord: yet the dogs under the table eat of
the children’s crumbs” (Mark 7:28, KJV). “But the woman saw that her
opportunity had come. Beneath the apparent refusal of Jesus, she saw a
compassion that He could not hide” (The Desire of
, p. 401). Here we see a shift in her thinking. No doubt
she initially thought of Jesus as the Jewish Messiah, not sent to any
nation but Israel.

We can thus understand that the action of providing crumbs was more
deliberate than an unintended breach of table etiquette. It can
reasonably be implied that this custom arose out of a sense of
obligation that the dogs which were provided existence and shelter by
their master, were to be fed. The woman’s response evidenced her
humble faith that “if she may have the privilege of a dog, she is
willing to be regarded as a dog” (The Desire of Ages,
p. 401).

One of the principles given to Jones and Waggoner in 1888 was the
concept that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was for the entire world,
“children” and “dogs.” It was by this sacrifice that the human race
was allowed to live. The consequences of eating of the forbidden fruit
was “in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt
surely die” (Gen. 2:17, KJV, emphasis added). As soon as there was
sin, there was a Savior. Like the dogs under the table, it is possible
for human beings to reject the saving sacrifice of the cross, but like
the dogs, it cannot be rejected without a struggle. The metaphor can
be extended. The dogs have been given shelter, comfort and necessary
food to sustain life. To reject this, the dog must struggle against
the natural needs built into his body. The person who, like the
prodigal son is pursuing happiness in the world, must recognize that
his need is for the comfort of a loving heavenly Father.

It is only by overcoming this built-in need that we are allowed to
continue on a path of rejection. It can be said, God has made it hard
for the heedless and headstrong to be lost. Once it is understood that
“while we were yet sinners,” and His enemy, Christ died for us, we can
with gratitude accept the “adoption of sons” (Gal. 4:5) and allow God
to write His law on our hearts. We are no longer under condemnation of
the law, but obedient children, fully adopted into the family of

In Tuesday’s lesson, Peter, by the guidance of the Holy Spirit,
answers the world’s greatest question: “Who do you say I am?” Jesus
Christ is the Savior of the world, the Messiah, by Whose name and no
other we can be saved. Like Peter, we cannot come to this realization
on our own, only by the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Once we come to
that realization, we take up the same cross Christ took: “Father, not
My will, but Thine be done.” The cross that Christians are called to
bear is not represented by the burdens of living in this world of sin.
It is relinquishing our will to the will of our heavenly Father, by
Whom we have been adopted in the Beloved. That is how Christ lived His
life and it is how we are privileged to live ours.

The Sabbath School lesson ends with the Transfiguration. The presence
of Moses and Elijah testifies to the saving power of the cross to
reach backward as well as forward in time as Christ is the Lamb slain
from the foundation of the world. Truly the sacrifice of Christ on His
cross saved the world and can transform both those who die in Christ,
and those at the very end who have allowed the cleansing, restoring,
and setting right that is Christ’s present ministry in the second
apartment of the heavenly Sanctuary. May this be our prayer.

Arlene Hill


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